Simple, effective ways to increase case acceptance

Oct. 26, 2016
Most doctors think, "I tell the patient what they need and they get it." 

Most doctors think, "I tell the patient what they need and they get it." But a funny thing happens when patients leave the operatory and walk to the parking lot. The clearly established "need" starts to fade from memory. This is just one reason why case acceptance is lower than most doctors would like. According to one survey we conducted at Henry Schein, the national average for case acceptance is between 55% and 60%, a far cry from most dentists' expectations.

I often hear doctors say, "We need a new treatment coordinator because our patients aren't saying yes!" The truth, however, is this: Every position in the practice impacts case acceptance. Every interaction with patients, whether on the phone or in person, is an opportunity to exceed expectations. Patients buy based on how we make them feel. It's critical that we give them a consistent, confidence-building, enthusiastic experience.

Here are recommendations for things I've seen improve case acceptance in the practices I work with.

Eliminate clinical terminology

Because our dental IQ is so much higher than the patients', it is easy for doctors and team members to speak over patients' heads. Do your patients ever appear bored during treatment conversations or fail to understand the urgency of the treatment need? We have all been there. That is why it is extremely important to ensure patients have understood every word we say.

Stories and analogies are a favorite of mine and very effective. Here's an example: "Mrs. Jones, it isn't 'just' a cleaning. Your hygiene appointments are a lot like getting your oil changed on your new car. You are maintaining your investment and correcting small problems before they become larger and more expensive."

Remember, you are educating, not selling

We all know patients hate to be sold but love to buy. Listening and uncovering your patients' individual needs and values and connecting the treatment plan to those values are critical to the success of your treatment presentation. Is it important to them for their teeth to be esthetically perfect? Or do they just want to be able to eat steak at 80 years old?

Here's an example: "Yes, Mrs. Jones. An implant is expensive, but so is the bridge. The bridge is, in fact, an option for you. But if [insert patient value here] is important to you, then an implant is what I would do. You'll be happy with it in the long term."

Don't be afraid to scare patients

Often we use words like "small" or "little" because we are afraid to scare the patient away from completing treatment. Without even realizing it, we take the urgency and value out of the procedure. We aren't doing patients any favors by downplaying what could or will happen in the future if the problem goes untreated.

Approach the patient like this: "Mrs. Jones, it isn't a matter of if. It is a matter of when. The tooth will continue to decay and will start hurting you unless it's treated." It is our responsibility to educate patients on the potential health consequences and expenses of inaction.

Make it affordable for them

Money will always be the biggest obstacle patients have to treatment. But dentistry isn't expensive-neglect is. Having different financing companies and a set payment policy in your office is imperative. Your patients should hear something like this: "Mrs. Jones, I know $5,400 may sound expensive, but can you afford $154 a month? Great, let's get you a financing application and get your treatment started."

Project confidence and enthusiasm

Confidence doesn't just include how well the doctor can perform a molar root canal. It is a reflection of the practice and its systems. The systems we use in our office are really what control our success. Communication with our patients is what sustains trust and loyalty. Present all treatment plans, guide patients' financial and clinical expectations, and help them make better treatment decisions.

Take your first step toward an increased case acceptance rate by tracking your numbers. Then, implement the recommendations above to hear more patients say yes to treatment.

Vanessa Buchheit has 16 years of experience in the dental field. After success as an office manager, Vanessa joined Henry Schein Dental as a practice development coach. She now provides coaching and systems implementation with a hands-on approach that increases production and reduces stress. Visit to learn more. For a free consultation, contact her at [email protected] or (855) 801-1125.

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