Six criteria for clearing the financial barrier

Some of you may have found yourselves needing to chant “I’m not a banker” in the mirror to keep from making one more deal that involves carrying accounts on your books.

Cathy Jameson

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Some of you may have found yourselves needing to chant “I’m not a banker” in the mirror to keep from making one more deal that involves carrying accounts on your books. Others of you get so frustrated with business aspects of the practice, such as financial arrangements, that you want to remind the world that you are there to be a dentist. Most of you have had days on both sides of this fence.

When it comes to financial arrangements, consider the difference that maximizing health-care financing programs can make. After all, you are a dentist — and a business person — not a banker. Let’s master this as the dentist and business professional you are!

You can significantly increase the productivity of your practice by making it possible for more people to say “yes” to comprehensive care. Clearing the money barrier starts with recognizing the fact that — no matter how much people may want to proceed with treatment — if they think they cannot afford it, they will walk out your door.

A consultation has two phases: the clinical presentation and the financial arrangement. There are several parameters that will make this financial discussion as positive as possible. Consider the following six criteria:

Privacy. You need to be in a quiet area that provides the necessary privacy. Do not try to make a financial agreement at the front desk in front of everyone.

We created space in Dr. John Jameson’s private office to make presentations to patients with his treatment coordinator present. Once he completes the clinical presentation and is sure that the patient has no further technical questions, he turns the consultation over to the treatment coordinator and excuses himself.

The treatment coordinator is fully prepared to give the doctor quality third-party reinforcement. She is able to answer clinical questions that the patient may not have been comfortable asking the doctor. She needs to ask the following question before the discussion of finances began:

“Mr. Jones, I know that Dr. Jameson asked if you had any questions and you said ‘no,’ but I thought there might be something you would like to ask me.”

Professional image. The person making the financial arrangement needs to be dressed in business attire to present a professional image.

Introductions. Make sure that appropriate introductions are made if the patient has not met the treatment coordinator.

“Ms. Jones, this is Jan Davis, my treatment coordinator. I have asked her to join us today for our consultation. Jan will be working with you to make the financial arrangement, and she will be helping with the scheduling of your appointments. I felt that it was very important that she hear what I am recommending for you. Is this all right with you?”

Body language — watch for buying signs. One significant reason the treatment coordinator is present during the consultation is to watch the patient’s body language for visual buying signs. This includes signs of discomfort, as well as interest.

Call the patient by name — frequently. During your financial discussion, refer to the patient by name from time to time. Patients need to feel that your time with them is personalized.

Have all necessary information. Be prepared. All of the appropriate information needs to be complete and in the consultation room during the financial consultation.

If a patient expresses a concern about money on the phone, send him or her information about your patient financing program. Make an effort to get the patient preapproved by CareCredit before he or she walks into the office.

At the initial appointment, if a patient expresses financial concerns, have him or her complete an application for your financing program while in the office. You want to be so well prepared for the consultation appointment that you do not have to figure out any information while the patient waits for you.

The person who makes financial arrangements will make the final close of the presentation. This person has a critical responsibility. If a patient sees the benefits of treatment as presented by the dentist, then the only thing that may prevent the patient from proceeding may be the financing. Have everything work toward the goal of gaining a high rate of case acceptance, including financial acceptance.

Cathy Jameson is founder and CEO of Jameson Management, Inc., a company dedicated to improving the lives of dental professionals through in-office, comprehensive coaching. For more information, visit www.JamesonManagement.com.

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