Insurance “Coupons” Put Patients in the Chair
I stood behind a woman at the grocery store the other day. She had a cart full of groceries and a fistful of coupons. I watched in amazement as this woman cut her grocery bill almost in half. I take advantage of coupons and special offers from time to time, but I had not thought much about, let alone seen, “extreme couponing” until then.
Coupon use is growing. Consumers saved $4.6 billion in 2011 and coupon use rose over 12% from the year before. According to an analysis by The Neilsen Company, “more affluent households dominate coupon usage: 38% of ‘super heavy’ users and 41% of ‘enthusiasts’ come from households with incomes greater than $70,000. Households with incomes of $100,000 and up were the primary drivers of coupon growth...”
I suspect you are asking, “What does this have to do with dentistry?” It is a reminder that attitudes toward money - specifically spending and saving - have changed significantly over the past four years. Patients don’t want to lose money any more than you do. Moreover, those most tuned into the value of the dollar - the better educated, higher income households - are also those most likely to understand the importance and value of your dental care.
However, as consumer savvy as this population may be, I can virtually guarantee the majority of them don’t realize that they are likely losing $500, $250, $700 in your office. How? Many, many patients have dental insurance plans with unused benefits that are poised to go to waste come year’s end.
As I remind practice after practice, dental insurance companies make millions of dollars off of patients who never use their insurance benefits because unbeknownst to the consumer, many of these plans provide coverage up to a certain dollar amount annually. Certainly, the insurance companies aren’t going to encourage customers to use benefits, and it is the rare patient who actually knows what they have left in benefits. Most are too busy to sift through their policies to determine what might remain on them, which makes informing them about the benefit an excellent win-win opportunity for patients and dental practices.
What’s more, fall is the ideal time to alert patients to unused benefits. There are still a few months before the end of the year to improve practice production, and you get the patients’ attention before the holiday rush kicks in.
Take these steps:
1. Generate an “unscheduled treatment plan report.”
I can virtually guarantee that every patient you notify will thank you for calling this to their attention. Whether they take advantage of the opportunity or not, they will appreciate the fact that you took the time to educate them on this important insurance detail.
Below is a suggested letter that you can customize to best fit your practice.
Dear Mrs. Patient:
Did you know that you may lose $XXX in dental care benefits? Our computer estimates that you still have $XXX in unused dental insurance benefits that will be lost by the end of the year.
Each year insurance companies make millions of dollars off patients who forego necessary and preventive dental treatment. Many individuals who are paying for dental insurance do not realize that their plans provide coverage up to a certain dollar amount annually.
Consequently, some patients are not scheduling the dental procedures they need, deserve, and have insurance to cover. Thus, the insurance money available to pay dental claims on many patients is never used, and, unfortunately, those dollars cannot be carried over year-to-year. The bottom line: What you don’t use, you lose.
We are here to help you secure the insurance coverage available to you on every dental procedure you schedule. Give (name of appointment scheduler) a call at 555-1234. I look forward to seeing you again and addressing your dental care needs promptly.
P.S. Find out about additional interest free financing options for dental care. Check with (name of appropriate employee) in my office for all the details.
Next week, don’t stop here. Follow-up.
For more information on this topic, visit my blog: The Lighter Side.
Interested in speaking to me about your practice concerns? Email firstname.lastname@example.org
9 Steps to Creating the Perfect Patient Relationship
Before getting into why the 9 steps to creating the perfect patient relationship are important in dentistry, you have to first understand how I began teaching about these steps. I can’t actually take 100% credit for them, but I can take credit for adapting them in dentistry. They were developed by Dale Carnegie, who was an American writer, lecturer, and the developer of famous courses in self-improvement, salesmanship, corporate training, public speaking, and interpersonal skills. He was the author of How to Win Friends and Influence People (1936), a massive bestseller that remains popular today.
I began teaching dental teams about using these steps and others in the mid 80’s. It became apparent that most dental teams valued this way of presenting cases and felt it to be the most natural and comfortable. The first realization one must have is to begin REALLY focusing on How to Win Friends and Influence People. There are many principles that Dale Carnegie taught, but if you can simply apply these 9 to your daily living you will absolutely be on the road to greater success in the treatment room.
1. Don’t Criticize, Condemn, or Complain
2. Give Honest, Sincere Appreciation
3. Arouse in the Other Person an Eager Want
4. Become Genuinely Interested in Other People
6. Use People’s Names
7. Be a Good Listener
8. Talk in Terms of the Other Person’s Interests
9. Make the Other Person Feel Important… and Do It Sincerely
I urge you to think about choosing one, if not all 9 of these principles, and incorporating them into your life in the practice and at home. The entire success of the practice depends upon the result of the case presentation, as does everyone’s paycheck. A one-on-one presentation with the patient, where you are exhibiting confidence, is what creates an eager want in the patient. Your enthusiastic attitude is what the patients will see, feel and desire. Everyone in the office must believe in the dentist and dentistry being presented and performed, including the dentists, office manager, dental assistant, front desk and hygienist.
“Hang your hat” on your ability to be the best clinician and diagnostician you know you can be. Pretend Dr. Gordon Christensen or any one of your favorite “gurus” is coming to your office tomorrow to review your charts and sit in on the presentation. How prepared would you be? How prepared are you now? What must you change?
To be the best presenter you must be the best listener. There are three ways people listen:
1. Listening about the person:
2. Listening for a person:
3. Listening to a person:
By using “Listening To” skills, one will be effective in revealing the values, concerns, and any objections of the patient. The information gathered is then tailored to fit that particular patient’s needs.
Presenting a great case presentation should have the following:
Stay tuned. Next time we’ll discuss 9 essential steps when treatment planning your next patient.
Interested in speaking to Gene about your practice concerns? Email email@example.com
Managing the Emergency Patient
The schedule is the road map of the day and must be carefully constructed to avoid the chaos of running behind, running out of sterile instruments, not having enough support staff, not getting out for a lunch break and not making production goal. Knowing where to put an emergency patient in an already burgeoned schedule is challenging to the business coordinator and a source of irritation to the clinical staff. The best way to eliminate this unwanted stress is to decide in the morning meeting where it would be feasible to insert an emergency patient. The second step in this process is to define what conditions constitute an emergency patient and what the general course of treatment will be and the estimated cost so that the patient is informed of what is to happen during the visit and is prepared to pay for services.
Driven by demographics and by the procedures that the dentist routinely performs, such as extractions and endodontic therapy, emergency patient numbers can range from one a day to ten or more a day. Though viewed by the team as an interruption, the emergency patient should be looked upon as an opportunity to educate and gain a new active patient.
Creating a system to manage this type of patient is imperative to prevent the clinical area from turning into a roller derby as staff literally run to the lab to get instruments, throw together trays and search for a clean handpiece. Having to change the order of the day and move other patients to overflow rooms is chaotic.
The emergency patient time is indicated by having a room or overflow room available for ten to twenty minutes or two units of time that includes staff time to get a periapical x-ray on the screen, health history and an intake form with the list of symptoms ready for the dentist to review. A sample intake form can be on the website as a downloadable form or as a Word document in the computer system. For simplification it should list the following information:
Emergency Patient Intake Form
We will be taking one or two x-rays and will be examining the area of pain. We will make an estimated diagnosis and address the pain issue. We do not keep drugs in our office so a prescription will be given if necessary. The cost of the treatment will be $_______. We accept all major credit cards and cash. The payment is due at the time of service. An appointment is available today at 11:00am. Would you like to schedule that now?
When the patient arrives fifteen minutes early for paperwork (if it’s a new patient), the business coordinator will visually assess the patient’s level of comfort and if necessary direct that the patient be taken into the treatment area. During the course of examination the patient is introduced to the practice and the treating staff and is educated to return to the office for a comprehensive examination and necessary x-rays. This patient may be currently unemployed or without insurance, but if treated with care will return to the practice soon or when more economically sound.
An emergency new patient would be coded as a limited examination, not a comprehensive examination. Although many software programs will list the emergency new patient as a new patient in the practice statistics, it is not a true new patient until the patient returns or completes a comprehensive examination. It is categorized this way because often emergency patients are transient and once out of pain do not return to the practice for recommended follow-up treatment.
Managing the emergency can be a positive way to treat and educate patients to better health if coordinated correctly. Need help with scheduling a productive and harmonious day? Perhaps it is time to harness the most important system in your practice by getting help. Call McKenzie Management for Front Office Training or Office Manager Training today.
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