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Case acceptance: The forgotten starting point

Jan. 1, 2021
Getting patients to accept treatment plans starts long before you present to them. From the moment they call or walk into the office, everything they see, hear, and feel shapes their opinions of you and your team. Make those impressions good ones!
Jay Geier, Founder, Scheduling Institute

Effective case presentations have a lot to do with influencing patients’ decisions. But getting them to accept a treatment plan starts long before you begin presenting it. From the moment patients call or walk into the office, everything they see, hear, and feel is part of the process that shapes their opinions of you and your team. Right or wrong, how good of a doctor you are and the quality of care you provide at your practice ultimately leads to whether or not patients say yes to recommended treatment.

Your process needs to build trust from the earliest interaction through the case presentation, and with every detail in between. New patients need to feel at ease and comfortable in your place of business. You want them to like you before they even meet you. Every aspect of the practice should be intentional, including all of the little things that add up to make a big impact on patients.

What is intentional?

  • From the very first call, the phones should be handled with intention, efficiency, and care.
  • The building exterior and signage should make a great first impression.
  • The lobby and treatment rooms should wow new patients.
  • Everyone should look, dress, and behave impeccably. Paperwork and the check-in/check-out processes should be handled flawlessly, and the doctors and other providers should be positioned as authority figures.
  • New patients should be greeted immediately upon arrival, by name, and be given an office tour, a welcome gift, and a formal introduction to the doctor.
  • Beneficial services or products should be presented to every patient during every visit.
  • Patients should be regularly asked for referrals. 
  • The doctor should spend the first few minutes of an appointment building a relationship with each patient before talking about dental issues. You should get to know patients so you can make appropriate treatment recommendations and learn about opportunities to attract new patients, such as other family members or employees.

Effective case presentations 

When it comes to presenting treatment plans, I hear this all the time: “I can’t bring myself to sell to my patients,” as if selling is an unscrupulous thing to do. And yet, people go to doctors and dentists because they are in pain or discomfort, and they want or need your services to feel and look better. Instead of selling, think of case presentations as influencing patients to make the decisions you know they should make to look and feel their healthiest. 

If your process has delivered a positive patient experience up to the point of presenting a recommended treatment plan, the likelihood of getting a yes is greatly improved. Even so, you and all team members involved should master the following techniques to influence patients to make the decisions that are in their best interests.

  • Present any downsides first, then turn the discussion positive by presenting advantages and benefits.
  • Explain what patients stand to lose by not agreeing to recommended treatment. You know your recommendation is in their best interest, so be influential. By really listening during earlier conversations, you’ll be in a better position to anticipate and preempt potential objections.
  • Present higher-priced options first, or let patients know the customary charge in the marketplace for the recommended treatment. If it’s higher than they expect, hearing this first gives them time to emotionally adjust. Then let them know that your costs are less than many others, which they will find more acceptable You can alwys present a lower-cost option if necessary. Also, be willing to offer creative payment terms.
  • Frame lengthy timelines (e.g., six months) within the context of patients’ ages by pointing out how much better they will look and feel for their many more vibrant years. If the treatment extends 12 or more months, present the plan as several shorter milestone treatments before disclosing the end date.

The value of an intentional process 

There are three ways to grow a business, or in this case, a practice: increase new patients, increase visit frequency, and increase average purchase through case acceptance and new and add-on offerings. Use this simple calculation to quickly assess just how valuable number three could be to your practice. 

Insert your gross collections and new patients for the past year into the following equation, then calculate your average revenue per new patient. This figure varies widely between practices, so it is important to know your own figure as a baseline for your personal improvement.

Example: ($900,000 gross collections) ÷ (600 new patients) = $1,500 avg revenue/new patient

To increase your average revenue per new patient, improve your process so it delivers more. Let’s say in this example that you increase average revenue per new patient to $2,500. That would be worth an additional $600,000 in collections in a year. 

Example: ($2,500 avg revenue/new patient) x (600 new patients) = $1,500,000 gross collections

If the significant revenue gain does not alleviate your angst over “selling” to your patients, keep reminding yourself and your team that patients want what you have to offer. But recognize that case acceptance must be earned. You must build trust in the relationship and the quality of care you provide through an influential end-to-end process that demonstrates excellence and genuine care and concern. A great patient experience starts with the first phone call and encompasses every subsequent interaction and detail. If you had a good process that fell by the wayside due to new safety requirements, get things back on track. Adapt it as necessary for today’s environment without changing the core principles that were proven to work.

An effective process includes presenting treatment plans and costs in a way that gains acceptance by patients, which is in their best interests. It’s also best for the business because happier, healthier patients lead to more referrals, more new patients, and the increased revenue that comes with “selling” more of the essential products and services your patients need and want.

JAY GEIER is an authority on growing independent practices to keep for a lifetime of revenue or sell for maximum value. He is the founder and CEO of Scheduling Institute, a firm that specializes in team training and doctor coaching to help people live up to their full potential and uncover the blind spots that are holding them back from their potential. To find out if your practice suffers from these blind spots, go to schedulinginstitute.com/de to request your complimentary analysis. 

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