Dee Dee Reid discusses ways to help patients get the dental care they need
Let’s face it, no one likes to hear the word “no.” But the reality is, despite the economic upturn, patients are still reluctant to say “yes” to larger treatment plans. A 2014 American Dental Association (ADA) study found that 40% of adults indicated that they will forgo dental care due to cost.1 Clearly, a healthy mouth shouldn’t be an “either/or” proposition for patients, but no one wants to be a pushy salesperson either.
So what can you do?
For over 20 years, I’ve helped dental practices from Texas to California realize profitable growth. 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? Was the patient nodding as you talked, but then at the end of the exam, he/she just left without committing to the procedure? The problem starts with the communication technique. Often, patients don’t fully comprehend what you’re proposing and how they can afford to pay for it. Remember, it’s hard to focus on anything when your 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 what’s important to them. Ask about their goals and their overall health, not just their oral health. Ask if they are happy with their appearance and their confidence level when they smile. Then, just listen. Let patients tell you what they are feeling.
Performing this simple step will provide valuable tips on how to position your treatment plan in a way that directly aligns with the patient’s personal goals. Discuss “why” and “how” your treatment plan addresses their concerns. Avoid simply listing “what” you’re going to do (too much procedural or technical information can be off-putting). This active listening technique is far more collaborative. When patients feel understood, it naturally follows that they are more likely to say “yes” to the treatment plan you’ve developed together.
2. Show, don’t just tell
Showing your patients what’s going on inside their mouth is a lot 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.
Remember, for most patients, if it doesn’t hurt, it isn’t a problem. That’s because patients see only what’s in the bathroom mirror. Once patients see full-mouth photography, it’s so much easier to have a constructive dialogue. Showing patients a photo of their own dental issue lets them understand the need for even the most preemptive of treatment plans.
3. Success takes teamwork
No matter how hardworking or talented, every dentist needs a good support team. That’s why (if you don’t already have one), I strongly recommend creating the position of Patient Coordinator. I’ve also seen this role called “Patient Care Counselor,” “Patient Procedure Manager,” or as in my case, “Patient Concierge”— but call it what you like, this position is key. You see, once the dentist has defined the treatment plan, it’s the Coordinator who works out the details with the patient.
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. For many patients, how to pay is just as important as understanding what they’re paying for. Patients also like that Coordinators understand the need for affordability and financing options. Ultimately, a good Coordinator can make all the difference in closing the case.
But what about the cost of this new position? The good news is that adding a skilled Treatment Coordinator can pay for itself. Here’s the math: A skilled Coordinator will cost between $3,500-$5,000 per month (depending on where your practice is located). But that same Coordinator can schedule and close an average of $2,000-$5,000 per day. Plus, the increase in practice collections is often between $25,000-$75,000 per month. All this while freeing up the clinical team and the doctor to do what they do best — procedures. Now that’s a healthy ROI!
4. Educate everyone, not just the patient
Clearly, creating a Patient Coordinator position is important. But I reinforce with my clients the need 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.
As a practice becomes more successful (and everyone becomes busier), an office-wide communication strategy is essential. This can be accomplished a number of ways: weekly staff meetings, office-wide emails or memos, even a company newsletter. It’s your choice, just as long as everyone is kept up-to-date on important practice developments.
5. Make it easy to say “yes”
I started this story with news of an ADA study. The fact is that over 40% of adults are still concerned about paying for dental care. Clearly, ease of obtaining affordable financing is an important factor for getting patients to say “yes.”
Many doctors don’t feel comfortable talking about money — but I always discuss third-party financing with patients. I also recommend my D2 Coaching and Consulting clients do the same. You see, as Concierge, it’s my job to make it as easy as possible for the patient to say “yes” to the doctor’s treatment plan. That’s why I love working with Lending Club Patient Solutions (formerly Springstone Patient Financing).
Honestly, they’re great partners. I’ve worked with Lending Club Patient Solutions for over 8 years now because they do an amazing job of empowering patients with more responsible and convenient financing options. Patients get what they want: fast approvals, True No-Interest Plans2 that avoid unwelcome surprises, and Extended Plans with great rates for low monthly payments. Your practice gets convenient selling tools, helpful email updates with the patient’s funding status, five-star customer service, and some of the lowest practice fees in the industry.
Some dental practices do still use self-funded patient financing. But the half-now/half-later business can be a recipe for disaster. No one wants to have the tough “your payment is late” conversation — after all, you’re not in the debt collection business. With a good financing partner, you can avoid all of that. Their no-default risk means the office receives payment upfront, so collections never cross your mind. Plus, working with an exceptional vendor like Lending Club Patient Solutions says a lot for your practice’s reputation and helps you build lasting patient relationships to grow your business.
You can find out more about Lending Club Patient Solutions at lendingclub.com/providers
Time to put the steps into practice
Naturally, there are lots of ways to help patients get the dental care they need and the services they want. But I hope you’ve found the tips I’ve covered here helpful, including honing your listening skills, using visuals, adding the role of Patient Coordinator, and recommending patient-friendly financing like plans offered through Lending Club Patient Solutions.
Imagine how successful your practice would be if just 50% more of your patients actually scheduled a procedure after their consultation? This type of conversion rate is possible when you follow these five easy steps.
- Yarbrough C, Nasseh K, Vujicic M. Why adults forgo dental care: evidence from a new national survey. [research brief]. American Dental Association, Health Policy Institute. http:// www.ada.org/media/ADA/Science%20and%20Research/ HPI/Files/HPIBrief_1114_1.ashx. Published November 2014. Accessed September 16, 2015.
- No Interest for 6, 12, 18 or 24 months, after that 22.98% variable APR. Interest will be charged to your account at the standard variable APR of 22.98% (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 who determines qualifications for credit and promotion eligibility. Minimum Interest Charge is $1.00 per credit plan. Standard variable APR of 22.98%.