Are Computer Treatment Plans Scaring Your Patients?
Dr. J did a terrific job of communicating the dental needs to his patient, Joe Tee. The intra-oral photo showed the fracture lines and the open margin of the ancient three surface amalgam filling on tooth #3, and Dr. J explained the need for the build-up to support the new crown. Dr. J also demonstrated to Joe Tee the need for 4 quadrants of scaling and root planing with the follow-up periodontal maintenance visits. Replacing the missing teeth, #30 and #14, with implant supported crowns was included in the discussion and the favorable prognosis for the end result. The implants would be surgically placed by an oral surgeon, whom Joe had never met but who came highly recommended by Dr. J.
Joe Tee was impressed with the digital display and the new technology. He was amazed with the information about implants and the prospect of having new teeth to chew on. His new insurance plan through work would pay for some of it, so he was motivated to get started. Joe just wanted to know more because he was concerned with down time from work, recovery, and of course, out of pocket costs.
Joe Tee was escorted to the business area by Dr. J, who told Joe that he looked forward to getting started at his next appointment. Bee, the business coordinator, was processing the treatment plan and printed it to present to Joe. He looked at the document placed in front of him. “You are going to have to explain this to me because I don’t know what I am looking at,” said Joe. The document was a print out of procedures that had been discussed in lay terms and were now on a list with ADA codes and procedure descriptors that only trained eyes could decipher. Going down the list, one by one, Bee explained what the code and descriptors meant and what appointments would be needed to accomplish the treatment goals. A referral form from the oral surgeon’s office was handed to the patient with instructions to call at any time to arrange for a consultation. “Does this surgeon charge for the consultation?” asked Joe Tee. Bee replied, “I don’t know, you will have to ask them.” “Do they take my insurance?” asked Joe Tee. “I don’t know the answer to that one either, sorry,” said Bee.
With so much technology in the clinical arena, there is no reason not to use it in the business arena - where it is going to make a difference in whether your patient has the treatment in your practice or not. Intra-oral photos should be included in your treatment plans because they are dramatic to the decision making process for the patient. Printing a treatment plan or emailing a treatment plan with the photos is a continual reminder as to why the treatment needs to be completed. You can accomplish this with most software programs, and if not, you can check out Treatment PRO online for customized treatment plans. In a Word document, spell out the treatment in appointments and what will take place, how long the appointment will take and if the patient will need recuperation at home and for how long. Include estimations for insurance coverage and payment options for co-payments. Extended payment plans or interest free programs through CareCredit should always be part of the presentation.
Many patients fall through the cracks after being referred to a specialist. To prevent this, call the specialist while the patient is at the desk and ask them the questions the patient wants to know. Better yet, find out the referral protocols for all of the specialists that you refer to. If you are a network provider for any plans, find out if the specialist you are referring your patient to is also in the network. Many patients assume that they are, and are angry later about large unexpected out of pocket expense. If your referral sources are not signed up for CareCredit, then motivate them to sign up. It will ensure that both practices can help their patients get treatment with a payment plan. Offer to call the specialist's office to schedule the consultation when the patient is in the office. This ensures that the patient will not postpone calling and also shows a higher level of care on your part.
A treatment plan discussed and handed to a patient that does not result in an appointment requires follow-up. A patient that is scheduled to see a specialist requires follow-up. Demonstrating the extra level of care beyond the printed treatment plan is the key to higher treatment acceptance in your patients.
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