Magic Questions: The Path to Case Acceptance and Compliance

By Kathy, Senior Marketing Strategist

There’s a bridge of sorts in nearly every doctor-patient encounter.

On one side, the physician’s knowledge, training and experience reveals an answer to the patient’s need. But there are many situations where the patient needs to accept the solution—cross over the bridge—and embrace the recommendations for their care.

Patients don’t “buy” treatments, medicine or procedures. The one and only reason people buy healthcare is for the results. In short, they buy happiness. Patient needs and circumstances vary of course, and sometimes the path to patient acceptance and compliance is straight and smooth.

But in many clinical care encounters, as well as with elective care options, patients require information, understanding and acceptance. Typically the path to case acceptance and patient compliance has three elements.

The Needs: First, ask questions that help reveal the wants, needs and interests of the patient. Situations of pain or physical distress aside, discovering the essential motivation for seeking professional care opens the door to acceptance. Examples of Magic Questions about needs would be:

  • What were you hoping we could do for you?
  • What would you like to change or achieve?
  • What is most important to you?

The Objections: A patient’s questions and concerns—real or imagined objections—remain roadblocks to acceptance until they are detected and answered. Probe for apprehension or reluctance with Magic Questions like these:

  • Why haven’t you done this previously?
  • What research have you done in the past?
  • If there is one thing that would hold you back, what would it be?

The Commitment: Having understood the patient’s motivation and having discussed their objections, you need to ask for a commitment. Surprisingly, asking for agreement—getting to “yes”—is forgotten or neglected. You’ve got to ask. Examples of Magic Questions include:

  • Is this something you want to do?
  • When would you like to begin?
  • Can we schedule [the first step]?

Following this outline of (a) discovery, (b) answering objections and (c) asking for commitment, create your own words for Magic Questions. Write them down and use them consistently. You’ll find that they smooth the path to success in case acceptance, patient compliance…and ultimately, better outcomes.


Kathy Gaughran

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