Treatment plan acceptance

Have you ever wondered why some new patients would go to all the trouble of calling your office to set up an appointment, take time off from work, allow someone they have never met to stick sharp instruments into their mouth ... and then not accept any treatment?

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Michael Gradeless, DDS

Have you ever wondered why some new patients would go to all the trouble of calling your office to set up an appointment, take time off from work, allow someone they have never met to stick sharp instruments into their mouth ... and then not accept any treatment? We usually rationalize the answers, such as they only want drugs or they don't have the money. One of the rules of management is that the first time there is an objection to your service, you get a free pass. The second time you hear the same objection, you must re-evaluate what you are doing. The third time the same issue comes up, it is time to make a change!

How often does this happen to me? I can tell you exactly because treatment plan acceptance includes a set of statistics that we track every month. If you want to manage something, you must first measure it. There is a simple way to measure your treatment plan acceptance and your staff must gather the statistics for you. A simple way for them to do this is with a treatment plan acceptance worksheet such as the one that follows.

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About the worksheet
1) Patient name: This form is completed monthly. In a general dental practice, each new adult patient is listed.The list does not include emergencies and patients who miss their appointments.

2) Amount diagnosed: The dollar value of the treatment presented to the patient. It excludes all phased treatments and represents the dollar value of the most expensive treatment plan presented if the patient is given several plans.

3) Amount accepted: The dollar value of the treatment which the patient immediately accepts. If you tell the patient he or she needs two crowns and the patient indicates he or she will do one crown this year and one next year, you may only enter the value of one crown.

4) Financial arrangement: This column is only marked with a check if a financial arrangement is made for the entire treatment accepted. A dollar amount may be entered if a financial arrangement has been negotiated for a portion of the treatment. If a patient wants to have the treatment, but has not set up an appointment and made no financial arrangement, the amount accepted is zero.

5) Notes: This column is for your internal use. Most practices use this to indicate why the patient will not proceed with treatment. The top practices use this column to reinforce what they do well.

This form provides you with raw data. From it, you derive four key practice statistics:

1) New patients: It is amazing how many practices estimate the number of new patients they see monthly. You should know the exact number.

2) Potential new patient value: Add the total in the amount diagnosed column and divide it by the number of new patients. This number is a standard that you can compare nationwide. Do you underdiagnose or overdiagnose?

3) Actual new patient value: This is the most valuable statistic of all. If you divide the total amount of the treatment accepted by the number of new patients, you will know what every new patient is worth to you. Without this statistic, you cannot possibly evaluate the cost-effectiveness of your marketing program.

4) Treatment plan acceptance: This is expressed as a percentage. It is derived by dividing the total treatment accepted by the total treatment presented.

Most poorly managed dental practices do not even know exactly how many new patients they see monthly. You must first learn how to measure the results of your efforts. These four treatment-plan-acceptance statistics are key to evaluating what is happening in your practice. They are baseline numbers you need to know. Next month's column will include proven techniques for improving treatment plan acceptance.

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 drmike44@aol.com.

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