Let's face it, no one likes to hear the word "no." But the reality is that patients are still reluctant to say "yes" to larger treatment plans. A 2014 study by the ADA found that 40% of adults indicated they will forgo dental care due to cost.1
The key to getting higher acceptance rates lies in how your office approaches the treatment plan presentation. Try using these five proven techniques, and you'll have more patients saying "yes."
1. Listen and learn
Did your last case presentation seem a little one-sided? Did the patient nod as you talked, then leave without committing to the procedure? Often, patients don't fully comprehend what you're proposing, or how they can afford to pay for it. It's even harder to focus when their mouth is full of equipment.
I recommend to my clients that they modify their consultation process. Start by conducting the usual exam, but pause before delivering the prognosis. Ask patients about their goals and their overall health, not just their oral health. Then, just listen. Let patients tell you what they are feeling.
You want to avoid simply listing "what you're going to do." Too much procedural or technical information can be off-putting. Active listening is far more collaborative. When patients feel understood, they're more likely to say "yes" to a treatment plan you develop together.
2. Show, don't just tell
Showing your patients what's going on inside their mouths is more powerful than simply telling them. That's why I strongly recommend using intraoral digital photography during the diagnostic phase. Pointing to a problem area with a digital image makes any issue become immediately clear.
3. Success takes teamwork
No matter how hardworking or talented, every dentist needs a good support team. That's why creating the position of patient coordinator is a great move. I've also seen this role called patient care counselor, patient procedure manager, or patient concierge (as in my case). Call it what you like, this position is key. Once the dentist defines the treatment plan, it's the coordinator who works out the details with patients.
I've found many patients are more comfortable talking to the coordinators. That's because they can use layperson's terms to review procedures, insurance coverage, and the ease of third-party financing options.
4. Educate everyone, not just the patient
Beyond the patient coordinator, I encourage my clients to educate the entire support staff on frequently performed procedures, treatment schedules, common medical terms, financing option details, and practice protocols. That way, no matter who interacts with the patient, the conversation is seamless.
This can be accomplished a number of ways: weekly staff meetings, office-wide communications, or even a company newsletter. It's your choice, just as long as everyone stays up-to-date on important practice developments.
5. Make it easy to say "yes"
Many doctors don't feel comfortable talking about money, so I always discuss third-party financing with patients. As the patient concierge, it's my job to make it as easy as possible for the patient to say "yes" to the doctor's treatment plan. I enjoy working with my third-party financing company, Lending Club Patient Solutions (formerly Springstone Patient Financing), for a number of reasons. The company does an amazing job of empowering patients with responsible financing options. Patients get what they want: fast approvals, plans that avoid unwelcome surprises (known as True No-Interest plans2), and Extended plans, which offer great rates and low monthly payments. In addition, our practice gets five-star customer service and some of the lowest practice fees in the industry.
One common question is what happens when a patient defaults. In this case, the office still receives payment. This is an important benefit, as collections never cross your mind. More information for providers is available at lendingclub.com/providers.
Time to put the steps into practice
Naturally, there are many ways to help patients get the dental care they need. Imagine how successful your practice would be if just 50% more of your patients actually scheduled a procedure after their consultations. I have found this type of conversion rate improvement is possible when you follow these five easy steps, and I hope you find this too.
Editor's notes: Sponsored article. Article reprinted with permission of Implant Practice US.
Disclaimer: As a dental industry consultant, Ms. Reid has received compensation from Lending Club Patient Solutions.
1. Yarbrough C, Nasseh K, Vujicic M. Why adults forgo dental care: evidence from a new national survey. ADA Health Policy Institute. http://www.ada.org/~/media/ADA/Science%20and%20Research/HPI/Files/HPIBrief_1114_1.ashx. Published November 2014. Accessed January 11, 2016.
2. True No-Interest plans offer no interest for 6, 12, 18, or 24 months; after that 23.23% variable APR. Interest will be charged to your account at the standard variable APR of 23.23% (based on the prime rate) from the end of the promotional period on the remaining balance if the purchase balance is not paid in full within the promotional period. Minimum monthly payments for this plan during the promotional period will be the greater of: the amount of the purchase divided by the number of months in the promotional period (rounded up to the nearest $1.00); or $5. Required minimum purchase of $499 for the 6-month plan; $999 for the 12-month plan; $1,499 for the 18-month plan; $2,499 for the 24-month plan. Lending Club Patient Solutions credit accounts are offered by Comenity Capital Bank, which determines qualifications for credit and promotion eligibility. Minimum Interest Charge is $1.00 per credit plan. Standard variable APR of 23.23%.
Dee Dee Reid works with Lincoln Parker, DMD, in Orange County, California, as patient concierge. Her 20-plus-year career in dentistry spans the spectrum of dental care. Today, she connects with patients as a top-producing patient care coordinator. Ms. Reid has iTunes podcasts available on the Thriving Dentist Show with Gary Takacs ("The Relationship-Driven Practice") and from Dental Up with David Hornbrook, DDS, ("Increasing Your Practice Exponentially"). She is also principal at D2 Coaching and Consulting. E-mail her at D2SuccessCoaching@gmail.com.