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7 tips for successful patient financial conversations

June 18, 2023
There are lots of things that can go right (and wrong) during a financial conversation with dental patients. Preparation is critical. Here are seven tips to help you make the most of those conversations.

The financial conversation is one of the most important ones you’ll have with your patients. During this talk, you have an opportunity to help patients achieve optimal health by verifying that they value dental care and are financially comfortable moving forward with treatment.

Best practices for successful conversations

Leverage your website. This begins the financial conversation before the patient’s appointment. Many of our patients proactively visit our website prior to their appointment. That’s why our website includes an explanation of how dental benefits work, as well as payment options and financing solutions that are available should there be any out-of-pocket expense. Cost is the top reason patients delay care, but it’s something that may be easily solved.

Address benefits early. One of the first questions we get when patients call is: “Are you in my network?” So, we prepare our team to answer that question and explain the basics of how benefits contribute to the cost of care. There is a reason people are calling and asking that specific question, so we don’t delay (“We’ll have to check on that for you.”) or evade (“I’m going to have Jane call you back with that information.”) the question. We want to make patients feel heard, validate their inquiry, and respond with empathy.

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Be calm and confident. If a team member is calm and confident, the patient will be too. If the team member is not, the patient will pick up on the anxiety and may reflect that back during the financial conversation. We find role-playing can help with this.

Get ready to pass the baton. Before the patient is brought to the front for the financial conversation, one of our clinical team members shares the treatment that’s being recommended through Messenger or the chat feature in our practice management software. This gives our front office team time to review the benefits and put a financial plan together. We don’t want the patient brought up front to just sit and wait.

Consistently pass the baton. We want our patients to view the clinical team as experts in their oral health care and the front office team as experts in benefits and finances. This is reinforced when our clinical team brings the patient to the front office. The clinical team might say: “Susie, I’d like you to meet Jane, one of our amazing dental team members. Susie just met with the doctor and here’s her plan for oral health. It’s important that she be able to get her next available appointment. Susie, Jane is our expert in scheduling, insurance benefits, and financial arrangements. I’m going to let her work with you to make this care happen.”

Don’t rush things. I know how busy a dental practice can get. But the financial conversation is where we want to invest our energy and attention. We don’t want the patient to feel like we’re rushing through this portion of their patient experience. We spend time educating patients so they have the information and solutions they need to make the best decisions about their oral health.

Have conversations, not monologues. Great financial conversations happen when the patient is engaged and participating in their oral health. We are curious and ask questions: “Mrs. Jones, we know your oral health is important to you. What can we do to make this easy for you? Do you have any time constraints? May I go over your benefits and then share some financial solutions we have available for our patients, like the CareCredit credit card?”

There are a lot of things that can go right (and wrong) during a financial conversation. Preparation is critical. That’s why it’s best to be prepared and take the time to set up your team and your patients for success. 

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Editor's note: CareCredit is a recent financial supporter of Dental Economics. View full disclosure at This article appeared in the June 2023 print edition of Dental Economics magazine. Dentists in North America are eligible for a complimentary print subscription. Sign up here.

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