When it comes to surprises, not everyone welcomes them with open arms, including patients who are planning their upcoming dental treatments. It’s important for these individuals to know all of their expenses upfront so they can feel at ease and in control of their own care, especially as they become more responsible for soaring healthcare costs. In fact, a recent Kaiser Family Foundation study found that deductibles have risen 25% in the past five years and almost doubled (increasing 79%) in the past decade.1 With such heavy financial pressures, patients are now relying more on you, their trusted care providers, to provide the necessary information they need to help relieve some of the weight and feelings of uncertainty. Consider some of the best practices we’ve outlined below for ways to get started.
These simple, effective conversation strategies can help you increase cost transparency and lead effective patient discussions. Plus, by applying these strategies, you may also discover how these tactics can help you accomplish major goals for your practice performance, including:
- Meeting patients’ expectations and needs
- Earning patient trust and loyalty
- Creating a positive, overall financial experience—for your staff and your patients
Train your team and build confidence.
At first, patient payment conversations could feel like you’re being thrown into the deep end—it’s a difficult task and it may feel slightly uncomfortable. However, these conversations are vital opportunities for your team to provide the valuable information that patients need.
Use training as an opportunity for your staff to learn about flexible financing, ask questions and share constructive input with one another so they can help build skills and confidence. It doesn’t have to be extensive or formal, but make sure that information is presented clearly so staff can gain a true understanding about why patients want and need financing. One great practice method is to participate in role-playing exercises.
For example, staff members can partner with one another and designate one person as the provider and one as the patient. Then they can use talking points to introduce and discuss flexible payment solutions, address common hesitations and suggest helpful responses. Going through scenarios like these can help your team get comfortable with discussing financing even before their first patient interaction.
Here are some other ways you can entice ongoing reinforcement:
- Share weekly quick-tip emails.
- Create a payment conversation checklist.
- Recognize staff members’ successful practices and achievements.
Consider repeating training regularly to help encourage good habits, address any misunderstandings and educate new staff members. When your team feels prepared and confident speaking about financing, this can help everyone in the conversation feel comfortable and improve the overall experience.
Communicate with patients at all points of care.
Your main goal as a provider is to keep patients smiling and ensure they receive the dental care they need. A key factor to driving acceptance for your recommended treatment is by connecting and building rapport with your patients throughout at all points of care. Establishing this trust not only helps drive empowerment, but it’s proven to help improve the overall patient experience. A PYMNTS study found that among those extremely satisfied with their current provider, trustworthiness was a key reason (75.5%), along with the ability to pay quickly and easily with financial solutions they prefer (72%).2
Keep patients actively engaged throughout their care journey so they can learn more about their procedures, fully understand costs, and make the best decisions for their health. The more information you can provide to educate patients, the more likely you are to help improve outcomes and provide peace of mind. Here are some tips to help you incorporate payment options and key messaging points during conversations with patients.
Before the appointment: When patients call to schedule an appointment, this is a great opportunity to let them know immediately about the payment options you accept at your practice. Be sure to mention specific forms of payment and when they can expect a bill. Having this information beforehand will help patients feel prepared and start thinking about how they prefer to pay for their treatments.
During financial conversations: Cost may be a significant concern for your patients and could prevent them from accepting your entire treatment plan. Help relieve some of these pressures during payment conversations and use the time to make sure patients are aware of and fully understand all their options to cover care expenses. Providing an overview of ways to help fit care into their budget and showing examples of monthly payments can also help patients feel like you truly understand their needs. With support and reassurance, they may feel more confident to move forward with their care without delay.
After the appointment and at checkout: Let the patients know that you are happy to help provide billing information, answer questions and guide them through the payment process. This is another great opportunity to let them know about accepted forms of payment and convenient ways to pay, such as online or through a patient account portal. If a patient expresses concerns about covering the full cost, use language to show that you understand, want to meet their needs and that there are payment methods available to pay over time.
Use tools to support patients and reinforce the value of financing.
You can help make financing a seamless experience for your patients by providing guided payment tools and marketing assets—online and in your office—that are ideal for today’s consumers. For example, using tools to estimate monthly costs based on financing options can help patients see how they can fit care into their budgets. Once they calculate totals, they may even be surprised at how affordable their monthly payment can be. Make the most of these tools by including them on your website and in your patient portal. Then you can help patients feel prepared and move forward with confidence, even before they step foot in your practice.
There are also a number of ways you can use communication pieces to make sure patients are aware of payment options no matter where they are. Display signage and brochures throughout your practice to boost awareness and help remind patients about their options and benefits.
These are great to share in waiting rooms and to bring along as conversation starters for consultations. You can also reach patients online to provide important information before their visit. Online research is a common place to start for patients exploring care options. You can help make your practice stand out by featuring ads, website and social media content to share pricing for common treatments and procedures.
All of these tools can help you deliver an engaging experience that lets patients know they can get the treatments they want by using the payment methods they prefer.
See how a third-party financing partner can make a difference.
If you’re interested in offering financing through CareCredit, the dedicated healthcare and wellness credit card, visit carecredit.com/providers to learn more and enroll today. Our team is here to make offering financing easy for your staff and effective for your patients. Plus, we have the tools you need to start the conversation and provide quality service at your patient’s convenience.
Did you know? CareCredit is already integrated with Open Dental. Learn about the integration’s benefits and how to get started here.
1Kaiser Family Foundation, Employer Benefits 2020 Annual Survey, Oct. 2020
2PYMNTS.com, Consumers’ Healthcare Financial Experiences and Patient Loyalty, July 2021