Michael Gradeless, DDS
Indiana is basketball country. Our state high school tournament attracts the largest crowds in the nation. If you drive through the rural areas of the state, you will notice a basketball hoop somewhere on virtually every farm. The general consensus is that the greatest college basketball team of all time was the 1976 Indiana Hoosiers. I study box scores. If you show me several key statistics from the box score of any basketball game, I can tell you who won. It is incredibly simple. If you know how many scoring attempts each team had, the value of each attempt, and their success rate, you know the winner.
The same statistics define a winning dental practice. How many "attempts" or patients do you have? What are you diagnosing? Are you shooting free throws or three-pointers? What is your shot percentage or your treatment plan acceptance? Last month, we showed you how to track your treatment plan acceptance. Believe it or not, this is the most important step to improve your treatment plan acceptance.
If you want to improve any area of your practice, all you have to do is develop a way to statistically measure the results of your efforts, and then continually re-examine your results. This is an amazing fact, and it always works. Even if you make no conscious changes to what you are doing, the simple action of regularly examining your results will improve them! This is the first proven method of increasing your treatment plan acceptance. Schedule a time each month at a staff meeting when your treatment plan acceptance statistics are presented and discussed. Your staff must be responsible for collecting and presenting the statistics. A winning team will want to report positive results and will work hard to improve treatment-plan acceptance.
The second proven step to increasing treatment plan acceptance is to improve your financial arrangements. Offices that have multiple, flexible payment options for their patients enjoy higher treatment plan acceptance rates. Our office offers at least six options for patients.
1) Payment in full before treatment — We offer a 5 percent discount on all services paid before treatment is started. This option is a win-win situation for everybody.
2) Payment by procedure — Many patients want the simplicity of paying for procedures as they are performed.
3) Outside credit — Our office uses Care Credit for our external credit source.
3) Credit card, Easy Pay — This system allows patients to authorize a recurring charge to their credit card.
4) Custom payment plan — For a limited number of patients, we will arrange monthly payments.
Here is the trap for the new dentist and everyone else who wants to offer payment options. Every option you offer in addition to cash payments will cost you a premium. Certainly, every company that is involved in the transaction will charge a fee. Statistically, if you extend payments, your collection rate will go down. If you have purchased a practice or you are expanding the payment options in your practice, you must understand the impact of every payment option on your cash flow. You must also develop guidelines on who you will extend credit to and to what extent. You must not extend credit just because someone is a nice person.
The most important method of improving treatment plan acceptance is by understanding the individual patient's motivators and concerns. In dental school, we are taught to improve our patient's dental IQ, yet we also have many patients with unfinished treatment plans. If you want to increase your treatment plan acceptance, you must tie patient education to the concerns of the individual patient you are talking to. This means that as you educate your patients about their treatment plan and about the procedures involved, you must verbally acknowledge the benefits to the patient. These benefits are obvious to you and your staff, but they are not obvious to your patients unless you point them out.
One of the most important ways you can measure your effectiveness as a dentist is by tracking your treatment plan acceptance. Treatment plan acceptance will absolutely define the success of a new dentist.
Dr. Michael Gradeless, a 1980 graduate of Indiana University, practices preventive dentistry in Indianapolis with an emphasis on cosmetics and implants. He is an adjunct faculty member at Indiana University, where he teaches the Pride Institute university curriculum of dental management. He also is the editor for the Indiana Dental Association. Contact him at (317) 841-3130 or e-mail to [email protected].