The fourth article in this series focuses on the hygiene department. Many people do not stay on a regular program of continuous care in hygiene, or else they do not involve all members of their family in your program because the investment is prohibitive. That’s the last thing anyone wants - for your patients to put off needed or desired care because of the cost.
For many years, I was responsible for hygiene retention in my husband’s dental practice. When I would call patients to schedule a hygiene appointment, they would say (particularly women) that all they could afford was to take care of the kids and that they would have to put off their own care.
I began introducing the concept of health-care financing during my phone calls. These patients expressed gratitude that they could now afford to take care of everyone in the family, including themselves. I gathered appropriate information, established a line of credit for the family, and - as soon as that line of credit was in place - called back to schedule the appointment.
The financing program allows more of your hygiene patients to receive this valuable service. In addition, it helps you nurture this lifeblood of your practice, the hygiene department. This is, of course, the place where you get people healthy and keep them healthy, identify new areas of concern since the last visit, reinforce the benefits of proceeding with diagnosed, incomplete dentistry, and introduce patients to new opportunities, such as tooth whitening and other cosmetic options. If a patient expresses a desire to proceed with treatment but is concerned about the money, your hygienist can smoothly open the door for a conversation about patient financing. For example, the conversation could proceed as follows.
Patient: “I know I need to do this. Dr. Jameson showed me this problem the last time I was here. But I just can’t afford this right now.”
Hygienist: “Mrs. Jones, if we were able to finance this treatment so that it wasn’t financially difficult for you, would that make it possible for us to proceed?”
Patient: “Well, maybe. What do you mean?”
Hygienist: “We have a financial partner that helps our patients with the financing of their dental care. You can receive the care that the doctor is recommending but spread the payments out and keep the payments quite small. Would this be of interest to you?”
Patient: “That’s the only way I could do this.”
Hygienist: “Then let me have Jan, our business administrator, know of your interest. She will discuss the details with you and help you get started.”
Many patients need periodontal therapy but may be hard-pressed to commit to the financial responsibilities. However, if they find that they can obtain these treatments and that the monthly investment will fit into the family budget, many will proceed. Other patients begin treatment but stop midway through the therapy. The financial responsibility may be the deterrent.
Get this out on the table at the initial discussion. Address the clinical recommendations and the financial responsibility. If patients express a concern about the investment in the therapy, encourage them to get involved with your health-care financing program. The monthly payments will be small, comfortable to the wallet, and nonthreatening. You will have fewer people fall out of treatment and more people completing the therapy.
Many insurance companies do not cover sealants. Don’t let the barriers put up by insurance companies deter you from offering what you believe to be best for a patient. Present your recommendations, make the financing comfortable, and get out of the way. Let the patient (or parent) say yes to the very best.
In some states, the hygienist is doing the bleaching. Of course, this, too, is not covered by insurance, but it is the number-one cosmetic service being provided. If patients want their teeth whitened, offer the financing program and watch this aspect of your practice soar.
There are so many wonderful services offered within your hygiene department. By offering health-care financing to these patients, you increase the acceptance of services. You expand your ability to care for your patients. The two go hand in hand: clinical service and financial service.
Dr. Cathy Jameson is president and CEO of Jameson Management, Inc., an international dental practice-management consulting, lecturing, seminar, and product provider. An accomplished speaker, writer, and workshop leader, Cathy earned a doctorate in organizational psychology, focusing her studies on effective stress-controlled management. Cathy’s books, “Great Communication = Great Production” and “Collect What You Produce,” are top sellers for PennWell Books. You may reach her toll-free at (877) 369-5558, e-mail her at email@example.com, or visit her Web site at www.jamesonmanagement.com.