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We have all said this under our breath:

“What a difficult patient.”

You know the patient…

  • You can’t seem to find a time that suits them
  • They cancel all the time
  • I am always following them up
  • They never want to have all their treatment completed
  • They are in pain and want an appointment immediately
  • They complain because our fees are too high
  • They are always late
  • They are always cranky on the phone and in the surgery
  • They ask so many questions

And the list goes on and on and on…

What if I now said to you that the patients who have always been difficult are not difficult but are confused?

I know you would think I am crazy!

The dictionary defines a person who is difficult as:

a person who is not easy to please or satisfy; awkward.


What if our difficult patients are not easy to satisfy because we are not satisfying them?

Yes, I do believe that there will always be those patients where, no matter what you do you will just never be able to satisfy their needs. You then get to decide if these are the patients you really want to be coming back to your office.

But what if you are missing the mark with some of your difficult patients and not meeting their needs and this has now turned a reasonable person into a difficult patients?

I do believe the difficult patient is really not difficult all of the time but is responding to a particular situation where their needs are not met.

Being difficult is usually a behaviour that most of us show when we are:

  • Confused
  • We don’t fully understand what is going on
  • Faced with a problem
  • Unsure
  • Scared/concerned
  • Upset
  • Frustrated

The next time you answer the phone or you are confronted by a patient who appears to be difficult, start to look at why they are being difficult.

What has caused them to have this behaviour?

I know this can be challenging. I know I was challenged many times by patients responding in a difficult way.

I started to figure out that if I was able to get to the bottom of what was causing the patient to be difficult then I was often able to offer a solution.

The best way I found to get to the cause of why a patient was being difficult was to start asking the patient questions.

Not just any questions but real searching and problem solving questions.

Once you genuinely want to know why the patient is feeling a certain way you will usually get to the bottom of the patients frustration.

Asking the right questions:

  • will lead you to the answer and help the patient
  • the patient will calm down and start to trust you and now you can help them
  • will have the patient open up to you and let you know why they are being difficult

I know the normal advise we get about how to handle a “difficult patient” is to calm the patient down and offer a solution.

But the real skill in dealing with a “difficult patient” is to use calming questions to find what their problem really is, and then offer suitable solutions.

Finding out is the key to changing a difficult patient into a happy and appreciative patient.

Just trying to calm them down is not offering the patient any solution. How can you find the solution if you don’t know what is wrong in the first place?

If we look at the types of difficult situations again we can now address the questions we can ask.

When you start looking at the “difficult patient” as a patient who is having difficulty due to their needs not being met, it will make life so much easier when you are on the phone and also face-to-face communicating with them.


This blog  features simple practical ideas that are easy to implement tomorrow in your Dental Office, impacting immediately on your Patients’ Dental  Phone Experiences, and ultimately, improving your practice profitability.


Dental Phone Excellence is a simple to implement complete Phone Answering system I developed that helped me to build an extraordinary dental practice in the heart of working class western Sydney.

If you’d like to know more,  download my sixteen page FREE special report “How I Quickly and Easily Went From 35% to 77% New Patient Telephone Conversions, and Doubled The Size of my Dental Practice Along the Way” and discover some of the many costly mistakes being made on your phone…..

My next live full day workshop “How to Turn Every Dental Phone Call Into A Valued and Kept Appointment” is being held in Brisbane Queensland on Friday November 18.

Click here on this link to register. 

At present I have availability for only ONE new private client. For more information on how I can improve your Dental Office’s Phone Numbers contact me, Jayne Bandy at  jayne@theDPE.com


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