Have you ever gotten your oil changed and had a mechanic give you a list of things to be repaired you didn’t know you needed? Did you take their recommendation, or did you feel like you were being upsold? Often, our patients feel like they are coming in for one thing and leave with something they didn’t even know existed. For example, since periodontal disease is often a painless infection, it’s not until teeth become loose or a patient is told about it by a dental professional that they understand they have the problem. If you’ve had a difficult conversation with a patient about the difference between a “deep” cleaning and a prophy, and that the deep cleaning isn’t typically covered at 100% by their insurance, then you know what we’re talking about.
It’s challenging to be the bearer of bad news. But even more difficult is continuing to see patients come in with treatable dental disease and to do nothing about it while knowing they are likely headed for eventual tooth loss. People avoid, put off, or disregard professional advice for many reasons. Some of the top reasons for a patient to not accept treatment include high financial cost, an insufficient understanding of what needs to be done, fear of dental pain, or the perception that the problem isn’t bad enough to fix.
Whatever the reason, we want to help you overcome those objections and get more dentistry done in your practice in 2022. Here’s our team-oriented approach to treatment acceptance. Treatment or case acceptance is not the sole responsibility of the provider introducing the treatment. It ultimately takes the whole team, equipped with the right tools and communication, to increase profitability in your practice. We will look separately at the methods of success for the back office and front office to achieve this.
Back Office (Dentists, Hygienists, Assistants)
Increasing case acceptance doesn’t mean “selling” more dentistry. It means seeing and fulfilling the needs of the patients. When done right, the patient gets taken care of and profitability increases for the practice. That’s called a win-win, right?
The most effective way to achieve a higher case acceptance is by connecting and building rapport with your patients. Trust plays a significant role in a patient’s choice to complete their treatment with you. Take the necessary time to build rapport with your patients. Here are some ideas to increase connection and treatment case acceptance:
- Sit the patient up. Look them in the eye when delivering treatment. It is obvious, but it does take extra time and is often overlooked.
- Use patient charts to remind yourself of important events or previous conversations. Unless you are a savant in memory, assume you will forget the details of your patients’ lives. Just plan on it. Add it to your checklist of notes to include the life events of your patients.
- Rapport starts online. In this social media era, most people make assumptions about you before meeting you. Be aware of the presence you have online. Use social platforms to connect with your community and let people know what the core values are for your practice.
- The golden rule always applies. Treating others the way you want to be treated is genuinely caring. People know when they are being taken care of. The stresses of the job can take a toll but remember the reason you chose this career: To take care of people.
You can’t do what you don’t know. The same goes for treatment. It isn’t easy to follow through with any restorative work if the patient doesn’t know why they need it. The tricky part is that educating the patient is time-consuming and often emotionally draining! Enter your hygienist. The hygienists should be your resident educators in the practice. Put their knowledge to good use! Not only does doing so help ease the time burden, but studies show people are more likely to follow through when more than one person suggests it. These studies also show that patients trust their hygienist more than they trust their dentist. Take note of that. Here are some ideas to get your hygienist more involved with education:
- Before seeing patients get on the same page about diagnosing philosophies. This will arm them with the information they need to explain what treatment might need to be done even before the doctor does the exam.
- Have the hygienists educate other staff members. This could even go beyond casual conversations and be formal training once a month at your team meetings.
Master the hand-off
The exchange between the doctor and hygienist should be so effortless the doctor can sit down, agree on the suggested treatment, and the patient is ready to move forward. This takes time and a lot of communication, but it’s so worth the extra effort. Regardless of who is educating patients, utilize technology. There are many apps and programs to help educate with video and different languages. A patient should be well-informed.
Look for Opportunities
Spending a few minutes at the beginning of the day to identify patients who need additional treatment is not a new concept. It’s been preached in a variety of different ways. The real trick is consistently doing it.
Lean into Conflict
Learn to deliver bad news empathetically. A dentist’s office is a difficult place for many people. Patients are vulnerable and often come in expecting to hear bad news. So, it doesn’t surprise many that there is work that needs to be done in their mouth. Deliver that news with compassion and understanding. Kindness goes a long way.
Get Better with Data
So, you are a wizard at building rapport with your patients, educating them, looking for future opportunities, and empathetic conflict. What now? It isn’t easy to know if you’re making any progress if you don’t track it.
Track these metrics to see growth potential:
- Production Per Visit
- Diagnostic %
- Same-day $ Treatment %
- Treatment $ Acceptance %
- Perio Visit %
Front Office (Office Manager, Receptionists, Treatment Coordinators)
Reinforce Education and Provider Competency
How many times has a patient approached the front desk – you present their treatment plan – and they look at you like a deer in the headlights? The front office staff is an integral part of treatment acceptance. Your reinforcement of treatment and provider competency can go a long way in comforting and reassuring the patient to take the next step. Remember these tips when speaking to a patient about treatment:
- Display confidence in the provider and the practice.
- Make time to address their questions.
- Ask open-ended questions so you understand their concerns.
- Meeting with the patient in the operatory has shown an increased treatment acceptance.
Scheduling Same Day
Scheduling the same day can mean multiple things. For example, at Dental Intelligence, scheduling the same day means getting treatment scheduled the same day it is presented. There are a lot of ways to increase this %, starting with a great morning huddle! Evaluating who needs to be seen that day and looking for opportunities to get them scheduled takes a few minutes before the day begins, but it can have a considerable impact. To increase same-day percentages, you must know where you are starting and where you want to go. To identify these trackable metrics, look at this information:
Treatment added to patients’ chart that was scheduled ÷ Unscheduled treatment dollars
As we monitor this same day %, we can quickly identify which team members are improving and which team members might need additional treatment presentation training. For example, do you see a rock star in the practice? Consider using that individual to train the rest of the team.
Using Planned Appointments in Open Dental makes scheduling even easier. Your back office can create the planned appointment for the recommended treatment. When the patient gets to the front desk, the front desk staff puts that planned appointment on the pinboard, then place it in the schedule for the date and time that works for the patient.
So, what if they don’t schedule when they leave? Treatment acceptance is difficult but not impossible over the phone. To understand how the team is doing in treatment acceptance over the phone or by email you’ll need to compare the total treatment acceptance to your same-day acceptance.
Follow Up Acceptance:
% = same-day
% – treatment acceptance
Treatment Acceptance % is the percentage of total dollars accepted out of the total dollars presented to the patient. This is identified by:
Treatment that was added to the patient’s treatment planner + Total dollars scheduled
Armed with this information, you can learn from methods that work to get people in the door. Maybe it’s a text instead of email, or it could be the time of day that you call. One thing’s for sure; you can stop wasting valuable time guessing and start using data to increase profitability.
Easy-to-Understand Treatment Plans
Giving the patients a 30-step list with costs and dental jargon will achieve one thing: confusion. Most dental treatment plan reporting in the typical PMS is to help the dental providers present treatment and not for the patient to understand what’s being presented. Consider using a treatment plan feature that will simplify the view of the treatment and let you customize the description field. So, instead of MOD Resin #3, you could say tooth-colored filling on the first molar right side.
In Open Dental, you can use the ‘Layman’s Term’ field in the Edit Procedure Code window to help make descriptions a little clearer for patients.
If your goals in 2022 include growth, then helping more patients to accept needed treatment is a top priority. We hope you find one or more of these tips helpful in having a great year, and in helping more of your patients to get the care they need. Happy New Year!
Want to learn more about how to create a growing, data-driven dental practice? Dental Intelligence would love to help! To get started, visit us today and request your free practice analysis, courtesy of Open Dental. We’re here to help you grow like never before!