Who Guides Your Patients To Their Destination? with Dr. Michael Goldberg

In my last blog, I discussed the value for, and the tactics involved in trying to discover a patient’s WHY. Recent events and the effect that inflation has, and will continue to have, on all our lives for the foreseeable future, makes this exercise of utmost urgency in your practice.

In light of this new reality, I would like to propose that you consider reframing each and every role in the dental practice. If your treatment is not presented in the right light, towards a patient-relevant benefit and evoking the desired emotion, money will become the default and rule the conversation.

Patients rarely present for a “treatment” without connecting the expected result to an emotion. What will it feel like at the end? Is it security, freedom from disease, self-confidence, a beautiful smile, or pleasing one’s spouse or loved-one? Uncovering the emotional answer to that question and then connecting it to all points along the journey ahead makes the voyage a pleasant and rewarding one for both patient and team.

We know that all purchases start with emotion. “Wants” often take precedence over “needs.” A desire begins in the heart and rationalizes in the brain. And in most instances, the heart wins out. We find ways to get what we want, even at the expense of what we need. Our role in the dental practice is to uncover the emotion to enlarge the heartfelt and the personal before we let the rational brain kick in. Doing this is not simple and not a one-person affair.

“People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”
Maya Angelou

Office manuals have written descriptions for the job titles of receptionist, treatment coordinator, assistant and even hygienists. But these don’t convey the importance of the ultimate mission that each person plays in the patient’s journey and experience in your practice.

Most dental team members, when asked what their “job” is, rattle off a list of tactics they deploy. Answering the phone, making appointments, presenting treatment, submitting insurance, performing treatment, assisting the doctor, and doing prophies are tactics not objectives. Certainly, they are not objectives that resound with patients and what they seek when they call or come into your office.

Your patient is seeking to climb a personal mountain. For some it might be a relatively small hill, for others, a Mt. Everest. That journey must be mapped out based on the destination.


Any patient that calls and/or comes into your office, comes with a problem and objective. Everyone’s “job” is to determine that patient’s objective or destination. It’s the Doctor’s role to uncover the size of the mountain ahead. Once the destination is revealed and the pathway planned out, it is everyone’s job to act as a guide or Sherpa, helping the patient towards that destination.

While this is an important paradigm shift, it is becoming more important as inflation and the media’s preoccupation with it, will make patients (and the dental team too) more financially focused. Climbing a mountain, especially one that has never been seen before, requires commitment. A guide or Sherpa helps keep the patient’s focus on the destination.

Once a patient raises their hand about wanting to stay healthy, promoting oral-systemic therapies requires guidance. Patients are unaware of what such therapies are and how they contribute to the ultimate destination of overall health and wellness.

A bacteria profile is just one point in discovering the size of the mountain to be conquered. MyPerioPath® lab results serve as a signpost for the patient to appreciate what might be encountered along the route.

Who is responsible for helping guide the patient along this worthy pathway?

Everyone and everything.

Marketing, in all its forms communicates or “reframes” specific issues to a patient or potential patient. It connects the dots and promotes value.

For instance, discussing the connection between oral bacteria and overall health in marketing and personal conversation might look like:

  • “What would it be worth to you if you could prevent a heart attack by seeing your dentist?”
  • “Ask us how we might help you avoid the pain of Alzheimer’s Disease with a simple test.”
  • “If you currently take probiotics, you should definitely ask us how you can make them even more effective.”

Note, that no claims are being made. Questions are asked that should stimulate conversations.  Then, it’s up to whomever interacts with the patient or potential patient to follow up on the conversation.

Often, the least experienced and dentally educated person in a practice is the person who answers the phone. They become your “Sales Prevention Department.”

Financial coordinators who do not appreciate a patient’s destination can make it all about the money. If the heart is not involved in the discussion, the decision will be all about the money or insurance. Another potential, widening chasm.

Even hygienists who perceive their roles as a remover of plaque and calculus rather than health and wellness guides can diminish the perceived value of their care. OralDNA® lab reports help convey context and value via a non-threatening, objective, third-party. It’s a “second opinion” that reinforces a proposed route towards the patient’s peak.

Becoming a certified “guide” takes training. It requires a thorough understanding of the pathway that leads to the destination. Such training should not be relegated to a dentist and hygienist but rather to the entire team.

In fact, the dentist is often the worst person to act as a guide. That’s because patients think that the dentist may have an ulterior profit-driven motive. So, any other team member’s guidance can be valuable in moving a patient along the pathway towards their desired destination.

During these economically challenging times, it pays to look at your patient’s individual and personal journey within your practice to review where improvements can be made.

Small changes in several areas can result in huge improvements in phone, treatment, and clinical conversion rates. Ultimately, it means better patient outcomes and practice success.

Want to learn more about The Patient Journey and Experience? Consider joining the Coffee With The Coach program.

To safe and successful summits,


For more Words of Wisdom from Dr. Michael Goldberg, visit the Practice Perfect Systems page of our Protocol Directory.

Michael Goldberg DMD