I have previously advised against implementing personality profiling as part of patient communication in the dental practice. Not because it doesn't work. It can actually work quite brilliantly and support patient communication super well. Provided that the theories are put into practice appropriately and incorporated into the other systems of patient communication in the practice.
This post is about how to implement personality testing in your dental practice.
What you will get out of it
What it requires
Recommendations for implementation
Different systems you can use
If patient communication systems are not implemented in the dental practice, I would advise the practice to look at this first and then at the patient personality profiles.
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When effective patient communication frameworks are implemented and proven to create deeper relationships with patients, leading to greater acceptance of complex treatment proposals. Then you can start working with more complex systems of patient communication. Including person profiling.
Please note that I call these complex systems. Because it is not easy to work with person profiling in the context of patient communication. It requires a sustained focus that typically takes many months - sometimes years - to implement so that they work as intended.
The Communication Triangle
Person profiling belongs to the communication triangle levels 4 and 5. Level 4 is what we can handle as individuals and level 5 is when all patient communication has become a streamlined process that everyone in the team works on systematically.
I think you have to take that into consideration when you start working with such a sophisticated form of communication. My recommendation is often to wait until you have mastered all the other disciplines of patient communication. You can read about them here on my blog, or you can join the next course: "Get to yes - patient communication 2.0", which I am organising in collaboration with Straumann Group.
If you feel tempted to start working with personality profiles, I would recommend you to approach it in a certain order:
Test yourself. Study how others perceive you and how you can adjust your own way of communicating so that your message is perceived as you want it to be perceived by others.
Invite your staff to be tested. When you know each other's personality profiles, a number of past conflicts begin to make more sense. You will become better at playing together as a team if you apply internally what you learn about yourself and each other. As a personnel tool, personality testing can be a really valuable tool - if you work with it properly.
When everyone in the team knows about personality profiles and is able to work with that knowledge internally in the team. Then you are ready to work more with it in terms of patient communication.
Once everyone in the team has a good grasp of the basic framework and knows their own and their colleagues' personality profiles, you can start to work with this knowledge in patient communication. Here I recommend outsourcing part of the task of identifying patients' personality profiles to the team.
Some of the ways I have worked with personality profiles is by looking at all the interactions patients have with the team of the dental practice. In this way, it is possible to delegate the task of identification to others in the team.
Example of delegation
An easy place to start, for example, is to have the practice subscribe to different kinds of magazines. Each magazine should appeal to its own kind of personality.
If you use the DISA method, which you can find described in the book: Surrounded by Idiots.
You will find, for example, that it is typically blue types who read illustrated science. Whereas the red ones typically don't pick up a magazine, but rather look at their watch and get irritable if they have to sit and wait.
The receptionist can be trained to record the type of magazine patients are reading. Over time, as the team trains skills in person profiling, this observation can be combined with observations about clothing and behaviour. Taken together, the observations can lead to an initial indexing of the patient.
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If you're starting to get a little nervous twitching as you read this, it's not abnormal. Because indexing patients and putting them in boxes and cubicles the way I describe doesn't sound quite right. Here I think we need to do 2 things:
We need to look at the overall purpose of our action. None of us wants to manipulate our patients. Rather, we want to communicate in a way that they hear and understand our message, so that they can make better decisions about their own health. We can do this better if we know how to communicate better with our patients.
It doesn't seem right to assess and index patients in this way when we split the task and delegate it to others in our team in a systematic way. The truth is that all humans do it automatically. We index and categorise all the people around us all the time, to keep track of all the data we collect.
Frankly, I think it's better that we get a more informed view of the patient's personality by having several different people gather knowledge and thereby reach some kind of consensus, rather than relying on our own flawed, subjective assessments. What do you think?
Please leave a comment about what you think at the bottom of the comment box.
There are several really good methods for indexing personal profiles. The most accurate ones operate with up to 256 different person profiles while acknowledging that it is still only guidelines to the right person profile.
The challenge with this model is that the team has difficulty grasping the model.
It goes without saying that no one in the team can keep track of 256 different personality types, when at the same time we have to keep track of all the other tasks we have in our dental practice.
A simpler model
Therefore, it is often better to find a model that is simple enough and that best fits a person description we can use in the practice. One of the models the clinic can use relatively easily, I have written about in a previous blog post about person profiles. It was a model that I learned to use at the Pankey Institute in the US and it contains 4 different person types.
Another model, which I described a little earlier, you will find in the book: Surrounded by Idiots. The book is written to be easily read by everyone in the team. As well as giving an easy overview of the personality traits described in the current model. The model describes 4 different archetypes, a bit like the DISC and the Pankey model.
As you can already see now, there are a lot of models that can be used for personality profiling. The easiest is clearly to choose a relatively easy to understand model and stick with it, all the way. That is, test yourself, then your team, use it to see if you can achieve better communication with your patients and then implement the model in all parts of your organisation.
When we delegate the task of spotting personas to one or more people in our team, everyone else in the team can focus on other important patient communication tasks.
As I wrote at the beginning, this is not the easiest task to tackle. So if there are other parts of the practice's patient communication system that you can improve, I would strongly recommend that you do this first.
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Many kind regards
Jesper Hatt DDS
P: +41 78 268 00 78