The journey from diagnosis to treatment acceptance starts with educating patients and building trust. Along the way to the final destination - the dental chair - are three "stops" or critical components to maximising treatment acceptance. Each stop is equally important and involves different members of the dental team. Just like a car has a steering wheel, an engine and tyres, only when the team all works together, can the car move forward. So, are you ready to hit the road to increased production?
The patient's first stop: Education
The process of educating patients on the benefits of dentistry begins with the very first contact and ends when the patient takes ownership of their dental needs. Until the benefit to the patient has been clearly communicated and understood there will be zero case acceptance. It's up to the dentist and the team to educate the patient and get their emotional "buy-in". Communicate the benefits of treatment. And, without using scare tactics, educate them on the consequences of not proceeding with treatment.
The "education stop" requires teamwork and good communication skills - including the ability to listen and discover what your patient's fears and roadblocks are. The doctor's role is to introduce the appropriate team members who will then skillfully guide the patient through the education, treatment plan and fee process to gain treatment acceptance. The doctor should close the discussion by stating, "I'll look forward to seeing your name on the schedule real soon so we can get started," communicating the assumption that every treatment plan is going to be accepted.
Get patients excited about dentistry's new technologies and procedures for their smile! To achieve this, set a goal of making 75% of all doctor to patient communication about dentistry. Also, make a rule that each clinical person spend two minutes talking with the patient on new ways to benefit their smile, sharing their pride in the doctor's work.
The second stop: Discussing fees
This is the stop where, for many patients, the journey either ends or gets delayed. Seventy-five percent of case acceptance gets derailed during the fee presentation - much of it due to unreal patient expectations about treatment cost and health fund coverage. Patients want options to make oral care more accessible. So, it's important to let them know you have financing solutions to remove roadblocks to acceptance.
There are four different ways to present fees, depending upon the communication skills and strengths of the team. In the first, the doctor presents both the clinical part of the treatment plan and the total investment. In the second option, the doctor presents the clinical part, while an assistant discusses the financial. In the third, a treatment coordinator details both the treatment plan and the fees. And in the fourth, my favourite, both the treatment coordinator and the financial coordinator make presentations.
The financial coordinator starts by offering all payment options available, including cash, cheque, credit cards and monthly payment solutions like CareCredit. Don't make the patient ask for financial help. Many won't. They'll delay or decline treatment and you'll never know why. Having a resource like CareCredit makes the entire fee presentation easier, because you'll be confident that you can offer the patient the credit they need to get the dentistry done.
The last stop: Scheduling the patient for treatment
The final stop to increased production is scheduling the treatment. The patient is educated, informed, and we've given them a financing solution so they can move forward to oral health. It's time to schedule for success. Leave at least a half day open every week to accommodate patients who need immediate treatment or have accepted a big case and want to get started right away. Create a sense of urgency. But, watch how you offer short notice appointments. Consider saying you have an unexpected opening and ask your patient if they'd like to take it. If you would like more ideas on scheduling techniques that move the patient into the ultimate destination - the chair, log onto www.DentalManagementU.com. I'd be happy to send them to you.
The journey from consultation to chair, from diagnosis to acceptance can be a smooth ride, with few roadblocks, if you follow the right roadmap. Just remember the analogy of the car. It takes the entire team, working together, to get there. Bon voyage!