Many offices believe the treatment coordinator is responsible for selling and getting patients to accept treatment. However, this is the job of the entire team. The treatment coordinator may be excellent at going over the treatment and financials, but he/she is not the only person on the team who has the power of influence.
The doctor needs to be precise and informative when telling patients what is needed and why. The confidence presented by the doctor when giving this information to the patient is very important. It is recommended that the optimal treatment plan be presented first - it is up to the patient if they want to be given more options.
For instance, if #14 needs to be extracted, the treatment plan may be to have an extraction, bone graft, and implant. This would be reviewed with the patient in the operatory, then the patient would be asked, “What questions do you have about my recommendations?” The patient might reply that he/she has no questions, or may ask if there are any other options. Or, the patient may not have any questions for the doctor because they are more comfortable asking the hygienist. Regardless, once the doctor has asked the open-ended question, the patient needs to be given time to think. This one-time silence on the provider’s part is golden. This is also the time to be definitive and confident with the diagnosis and treatment plan or plans being given.
If the patient does ask, “What other options do I have, because I can’t afford that?” the doctor will want to lay out the different options. The patient may want to consider a three unit bridge, and the doctor can go over all of the risks, benefits, and alternatives to a three unit bridge compared to an implant. The patient should also be educated about the risk and benefits if they do not replace the tooth at all. During this time, the doctor can also mention that the implant may not cost as much as the patient thinks, and have the treatment coordinator review the options.
In the above scenario, I used the doctor as the provider. However, if the doctor were to come into the hygienist’s room and diagnose this treatment, the hygienist should be totally comfortable answering the patient’s questions. It is important that the entire office is on the same page when it comes to any treatment that is recommended by the doctor, and why the doctor has chosen that particular treatment as the best for that patient. If for some reason the hygienist does not know the answer the doctor would give, then the doctor should be asked or brought back in the room.
At this time, the hygienist needs to stay in the room in order to understand the doctor’s philosophy better. If the staff does not know the philosophy of the doctor when it comes to treatment planning, it will be more difficult for them to help with educating the patient. The patient needs and wants to have the same answers, regardless of whom they may ask in the practice. If one person’s answers differentiate from another, the treatment may not be accepted. This does not imply that every person on your dental team would use the exact same verbiage. However, they should all have the same answer.
Next, the patient will be handed off to the treatment coordinator. S/he will go over all of the treatment options and financials. No matter how good or bad the insurance company pays, it is best to highlight the positive fact that they have any help at all. Sometimes patients need to be shown how they can afford treatment. CareCredit is a great way to make what a patient thinks they cannot afford become affordable.Making sure the entire team is trained with the same philosophy and protocol when it comes to presenting and discussing treatment with patients is essential when it comes to the success of your practice.
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