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The delivery of our professional recommendation to the patient is one of the most important elements of the patient-doctor encounter. Unfortunately, it’s not always delivered with success. Many times, an assertive professional recommendation can make a profound impact on how complacent or compliant patients are when we advise them on materials upgrades, additional diagnostic testing or return office visits. Ultimately, our professional recommendation plays a vital role to our practice’s success.

Where is the Disconnect?

When I was first in practice, my professional recommendation was particularly uncomfortable and poorly delivered. I often felt as if the patient would view me as demanding or bossy if I would assertively state my recommendation. Reflecting back on my own fears of potentially being considered an aggressive, pushy doctor, my professional recommendations quickly became nothing more than suggestions.
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The light bulb turned on one day when I wrapped up the examination with my “suggestions” and the patient then asked for my professional recommendation. Confused, I again started to go through my list of “suggestions” with the patient who then interrupted and said, “With all due respect, I got the same suggestions off of the Internet last night. I came to you today because you have the training and background to decide which suggestion is best for me. Now, what do you recommend?”

To say that I was embarrassed is an understatement. I learned a valuable lesson that day and never again wanted a patient to equate the level of care he received in my office to that of a Web site.

The Power Behind Your Professional Recommendation
Your professional recommendation is a powerful tool. Not only can it be a direct reflection of your competence, professional poise and knowledge with your patients, it can also be a wonderful tool to help you to efficiently manage your time. When you take a more assertive approach, it’s possible to limit your discussion with your patient to the two or three best options and conclude with your recommendation. As I became comfortable with making recommendations, my patients were more comfortable and asked fewer questions. They sensed my confidence with the recommendations that I made for their care. In turn, I quickly became more productive.

An assertive professional recommendation can also make your staff’s job much easier. I discovered that my staff appeared more confident discussing options and fees with patients when I became confident with my recommendations. Staff quickly began to notice how much easier it was to upgrade patients into premium anti-glare coatings or thinner lens materials after I cast my recommendation to both the patient and my staff. As a result, I’ve quickly learned the valuable impact that my professional recommendation has had on the financial success of my practice.

The Importance of a Professional Recommendation
As a young practitioner, I can attest to the importance of patients viewing me as assertive and confident. I’ve had a number of patients ask me, “Are you sure that you’re old enough to be a doctor?” As a new O.D., you too, will be faced with the unique challenge of trying to establish a credible, knowledgeable and trustworthy rapport with your patients. One of the best ways to establish the highest level of credibility with your patients is through the professionalism of your recommendation.


Starting Strategies

One of the easiest ways to become more comfortable making professional recommendations is to write out scripts and place them on your clipboard used in the exam room. For example, write a very short script for how you want to cast your professional recommendation at the end of an exam. Attach this script to your clipboard so that you can discreetly review it before conversing with the patient. Scripts can be a useful tool when attempting to communicate your message effectively to your patient. - Kelly Kerksick, OD

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