By David Crooks President, Easy Pay Solutions, Inc., CMT Special Contributor
We all have individuals who, from time to time, and for whatever reason, refuse to see things our way. Some of them find their way into our concierge practices. In some cases, they refuse to see or do what is clearly best for their own well-being. If they are patients, their stubbornness could in some cases cost them their lives. Our goal is to help them see their condition and the best way to avoid or lessen any negative effects of that condition.
Persuading a stubborn, non-compliant patient is an art. As with any art form, there are tools to use. In most cases chisels don’t work well with canvas, paint brushes are made for canvas. In the case of stubborn patients (or people in general), emphatic statements don’t tend to work well while questions are more inviting. Like the chisel on canvas, a statement is often too sharp and final, leaving no room for the patient’s opinion or desires. The patient doesn’t feel ‘heard’. Whereas a question is an invitation for the patient to tell you his or her perspective.
It is good to hear the patient’s perspective, even if it is not relevant to his or her condition. If we can learn to ask questions artfully, we can lead the conversation and often persuade patients to another point of view. Once we know the patient’s point of view we can craft questions to help them see ours and begin to move them toward it. Below are three questions that will help you overcome the barriers and move them to a conclusion that’s closer to what is best for them and for your concierge practice.The ‘x’ and ‘y’ represent two differing points of view or courses of action. The ‘x’ is what the patient wants and the ‘y’ is what we believe is best for the patient and our practice. Your practice probably has some complex ‘x’ and ‘y’ equations that may take several steps to help the patient see a different point of view. Some obvious examples are ‘diabetes vs. diet’ (eating for comfort or socially drinking), ‘medication vs. memory’ (patient forgets to take meds), ‘medical necessity vs. money’ (patient resources are challenged). If you can win the patient over to take a small step, you may set them up to take bigger steps later. As we said before, it’s an art! You’ll get better with practice.
The hardest part of this communication style is to train yourself to ask questions instead of make statements. Asking questions usually takes longer and is more difficult until it becomes habit, but the results are so much more rewarding and lasting. Try your hand at these questions by applying them to some typical scenarios in your office.
I can help you with ‘x’ (i.e., pain reduction, reactions to meds, payment) if you can help us with ‘y’ (i.e, agree to rest more, try different meds, agree to a card-on-file membership plan). Would you be willing to consider ‘y’ if it helps you with ‘x’?
Your decision to ‘x’ (i.e., not change diet, not get lab work done, not pay the invoice) may cause ‘y’ (i.e., continuation of symptoms, delay in diagnosis, practice to discontinue treatment). Can you help me understand your decision?
You seem determined to do ‘x’ (i.e., not attend physical therapy, not undergo surgery, continue destructive behaviors). How can we help you to do ‘y’ (i.e., give physical therapy a try, learn more about the surgery, see a counselor or help group)? After they answer you may have to set some boundaries, ‘Ok, let’s try that for the next week, 30 days, etc., and see how it goes.’ If you can ‘do it their way’ but set limits, then you have a chance to revisit the topic if the patient does not adjust their behavior.
EDITOR: “You have to define what “exceptional” means … You want patients to come back in the following days for another round of offending. Present the truth of medicine in uncompromising terms, rally hard against couch potatoes, and tackle the most emotionally charged topics in their lives, while providing an “environment” where people feel cared for.”
Working with stubborn or non-compliant patients will require you to think creatively. Questions that bring out the real reason for the stubbornness or non-compliance are often difficult to think of and ask. Like we said before, practice, practice, practice. Remember that your questions may uncover deeper issues that need to be addressed. They may serve as a bridge to bring a stubborn patient closer to a good decision. They may reveal that the patient has no intention of budging. Regardless the outcome, every question is a chance to get better at patient friendly communication. You’ll benefit even if the patient decides not to.
About David S. Crooks, President,Easy Pay Solutions, Inc.
CONTACT INFO.: David S. Crooks and/or Jim Turner, VP Marketing Easy Pay Solutions www.easypaycollect.com | TEL: 877.715.7166
Mr. Crooks is currently the president of Easy Pay Solutions, Inc., a Chicago-‐based company focused on helping healthcare providers expedite patient payments while reducing bad debts and patient receivables. The company’s Easy Pay cloud-‐based software provides an enhanced way to utilize credit/debit cards, storing the patient’s credit card information for later processing. This puts the provider in control of when he/she gets paid by patients. In addition, Easy Pay provides the traditional single payment feature, as well as the ability to use credit/debit cards for payment plans and phone collections.