In a perfect world, we diagnose wonderful full mouth treatment plans; the patient appoints, keeps his appointment and pays in full at the time of service with a smile of appreciation on his face. For the most part, this scenario is true in many practices. The implied contract works both ways. You deliver the dentistry in a professional, ethical manner and the patient responds by being compliant with home care, appointments and payment for services rendered.
What happens when you deliver but the patient does not? My answer is to be prepared and have systems in the beginning that set standards for behavior in your practice. Have firm financial options to offer your patients so that the patient understands his or her financial obligation before treatment is started. In presenting treatment options make sure that the patient understands that you cannot “bill” them for completed services. Insurance estimates are just that. Dental insurance has never been comprehensive in coverage. The patient needs to understand what the insurance is estimated to pay and that they are ultimately responsible should the insurance not pay. Some offices opt for going strictly fee for service, collecting in full and having the patient send in the claim. This is the ideal but it is not for every practice. If you are not ready to go this route then your patients need to understand how dental insurance is processed in your practice and you need to collect what is not covered at each appointment.
At THE CENTER FOR DENTAL CAREER DEVELOPMENT we have a new brochure to educate patients about dental insurance called "My Insurance Covers This...Right?" The brochure answers the most common questions patients have about dental insurance in simple language. It is an excellent product to include in your New Patient Packets to patients with dental insurance. It is also important to include this brochure in the financial part of the treatment presentation.
The patient needs to understand your policy for cancellations and failed appointments. Explaining early in the relationship what is expected of the patient in regards to keeping appointments and the consequences of failing appointments will help to prevent this behavior in the future.
With the right systems in place, perfect world dentistry is possible in your practice. Recent studies have shown that in some areas of the country there are shortages of dentists. The demand exceeds the supply to the point that some practices are busy in spite of themselves. If you are not busy it is because something is wrong with one or more of the systems in your practice. You could be convincing patients not to have dental care in your office by:
- Having a restrictive appointment system making it difficult to schedule a time.
- Being booked out for hygiene appointments more than 3 weeks
- Shocking new patients with big dollar treatment plans
- Making patients wait longer than ten minutes in the reception room
- Not explaining ahead of time how insurance is handled in your office
- Not presenting written treatment options
- Not helping patients obtain financing such as with Care Credit.
- Not giving the patient post op instructions or follow-up care
- Not offering the patient an opportunity to freshen up after an appointment
- Not giving the patient information or samples of new products and services that may help them achieve optimum dental health etc.
- Not having an indirect or direct marketing plan to retain existing patients and attract new patients
If you show resistance to giving some extra effort to make your patients welcome and comfortable they may not find the need to drive an extra mile to see you, especially if the other dentist down the street is offering better customer service.
The Advanced Business Training at THE CENTER FOR DENTAL CAREER DEVELOPMENT is comprehensive in coverage of all systems that create the most productive and profitable dental practices. For more information, call 1-877-777-6151 or send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.