Eliminate Barriers to Treatment Acceptance
Understandably, it can be agonizing for those eager to provide comprehensive dentistry to waste precious time presenting treatment plans that are relegated to the patient’s “maybe someday” list. But how do dentists and their teams get patients to pull the trigger on procedures without coming across as pushy?
First step, understand the scope of the challenge you are facing. That starts with carefully monitoring the Unscheduled Treatment Plan Report or similar report. To ensure that the data contained in the report is accurate, all treatment plans must be entered into the system by the treatment coordinator.
If your Unscheduled Treatment Plan Report indicates that treatment acceptance is below 85%, it’s time to develop and implement a plan of action. This action plan will likely require treatment presentation training and scripts. In addition, it will be essential to evaluate whether your practice makes it easy for patients to pursue the treatment they want and need. Certain software programs allow you to determine almost immediately if a patient is eligible for treatment financing options, such as those offered through CareCredit.
Next, take a close look at your treatment communication channels. Too many dentists still hold onto the myth that if they mention the need for treatment a time or two to the patient, they have done what they can to convince the individual of the need. In reality, it can take as many as 12 conversations before the patient will move forward with care.
But ongoing communication with the patient is only part of the equation. As many dental teams eventually come to realize, a multitude of factors play a role in securing treatment acceptance - and in some cases, one of the biggest obstacles is the doctor. The fact is, the doctor is not always the right person for the job. Certainly it’s not easy for the doctor to look in the mirror and acknowledge that while s/he may be an excellent clinician and superior at treatment planning, presenting the package to the patient is something better off delegated to a well-trained staff member.
Understandably, some dentists can find the prospect of turning over treatment presentation to a staff member extraordinarily challenging. But if the doctor isn’t delivering an 85% treatment acceptance rate or better, it’s time to consider changing the strategy. The dentist must discuss certain issues to meet informed consent standards, such as the nature of the problem, recommended treatment and potential complications associated with the procedure. But many other details can be addressed by the treatment coordinator - in particular, The Big Three: How much time will it take? How much money will it cost? Will it hurt? The treatment coordinator can explain what to expect at each appointment. S/he also can cover issues of concern that the patient might have such as worries regarding pain or discomfort. And s/he can discuss the all important issue of treatment financing.
In addition, patients often feel awkward discussing fees with dentists. Many patients see dentists as being in a very high-income bracket, and they perceive that the dentist may not understand their financial limitations. Conversely, dentists who get into the habit of discussing fees and financial arrangements with patients can feel unnecessarily pressured to make concessions or provide credit options that are well beyond what is reasonable for a small business to offer.What’s more, dentists typically don’t see any problem with presenting treatment plans in the operatory. However, patients feel they are at the mercy of the doctor in this space; it is not conducive to a relaxed, detailed discussion. More comprehensive treatment plans should be delivered in a separate area of the office designated as a “no interruption zone” where specifics can be spelled out and patients are encouraged to ask questions.
For more information on this topic, visit my blog: The Lighter Side
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Holiday Wish List: A Happier Workplace
Black Friday has now expanded into Brown Thursday. And then there’s Small Business Saturday. Retailers are clamoring for your business. It's notoriously called “the most wonderful time of the year” - yet the stress of shopping for gifts or a special holiday meal can turn any of us into Scrooge. If you’re looking for the perfect gift for your staff, promote employee happiness.
There is a growing body of persuasive evidence showing that companies can improve employee productivity, reduce staff turnover, and make more money by supporting employee positivity. Advances in neuropsychology have added rigor and clarity to the picture, while the integration of non-business academics, especially psychologists, into traditional business schools has led to a broadening of interest among economists. As a dental leader, this is essential knowledge if you want a high performing practice.
Conventional wisdom holds that if we work hard we will be more successful, and if we are more successful, then we’ll be happy. But recent discoveries in the field of positive psychology have shown that this formula is actually backward: Happiness fuels success, not the other way around. When we are positive, our brains become more engaged, creative, motivated, energetic, resilient, and productive at work.
This discovery has been repeatedly borne out by research in psychology and neuroscience, management studies, and the bottom lines of organizations around the globe. Consider that Harvard and Stanford Business Schools teach courses on happiness. There is science behind the smile! One study of CEOs showed that positivity training could boost their productivity by 15%, and managers improved customer satisfaction by 42%. Positivity training programs have demonstrated excellent results with tax auditors, investment bankers and lawyers. Despite such amazing results, many leaders remain completely unfamiliar with the concept. Maybe there's a stigma attached to positive thinking and happiness. Too touchy-feely to some.
Being positive isn't about being nice and giving in, nor does it mean suppressing negative information and emotions. Both are critical for optimal performance. However, the 3:1 positivity-to-negativity ratio is the tipping point for individuals and business teams to go from average to flourishing. That is, when you experience and express three times as much positive as negative emotion, you pave the way for excellence and high performance. Most of us (80%) experience a ratio of 2:1.
Researchers at the UC Berkeley Haas School of Business studied how positive moods affect leaders. Those with greater positivity were more accurate and careful in making decisions, and were more effective interpersonally. Leaders with positive emotions infect their work groups with similar feelings and show improved team coordination, while reporting less effort to accomplish more.
Ask your employees to bring in photographs, images, or drawings of their everyday moments. It might be a picture of a cup of coffee, a brilliant sunset, a bicycle. Could be a magazine ad with a person sitting on the beach or even a clean pile of laundry. Whatever represents a moment of happiness. Frame a large poster board or bulletin board with a bright border and entitle it, “This Makes Me Happy”. Post the images. Encourage your staff to add to the mural until it’s filled. You can invite patients to participate by creating another board in the reception area. Then watch what happens to the mood in your office, and please let me know. Happy Holidays!
Dr. Haller offers a 1-day workshop, Happiness is a Work Ethic: Train Your Brain. To bring this seminar to your team, contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org
Dr. Haller provides training for leadership effectiveness, interpersonal communication, conflict management, and team building. If you would like to learn more contact her at email@example.com
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Introducing New Equipment and Technology
“Dr. Smith” just attended a dental technology convention and ended up buying a new piece of equipment for himself and the hygienists to use. It really doesn’t matter if he bought a laser, intra-oral camera, or new digital x-ray machine - policies need to be set regarding the use of the new equipment. All of the hygienists have been trained using the technology, but they have never used the particular brand that Dr. Smith bought, and the office has never utilized this new technology in the practice.
The doctor and hygienists should have a meeting to go over the proper use and care of the new equipment. First, the hygienists will become comfortable using the new equipment by practicing with it. This will help to prevent them from misusing the equipment and being embarrassed in front of patients because they do not appear confident. It is important for all hygienists who will be using the new equipment to be present at the training, both full and part time.
This meeting will also be used to establish office policy on the implementation of the technology. The staff will make sure they are all on the same page regarding how patients will benefit from the equipment, how often it will be used, when it will be done, and at what time during the appointment it will be done. If need be, they will have research studies and position papers available to help with some of the decision making process, in order to make sure they are providing the best quality of care to their patients. They may even have a consultant or information from the latest seminar they attended to help with the decision making process.
The team will also need to decide what will be notated in the chart for every patient, and a template will need to be made in the computer. The template will create consistency between providers when it comes to the order of the information and what is included in the clinical notes. This is to make the process smoother for everybody. The template will include information that will help guide them in charting everything accurately and thoroughly in the patient records. For instance, what procedure was performed, what area was treated, were all safety measures utilized, and what future recommendations were made, if any.
Decisions will need to be made regarding the role the treatment has in increasing production. How exactly is the new treatment going to increase production? How much will be charged? Will it have an individual fee? Is there going to be an additional charge? Will it be incorporated into an already existing fee? Will that existing fee be increased in order to help with the additional cost of the new equipment? If the new equipment is an intra-oral camera, there may not be an additional charge, and the increase in production may come from the patient acceptance rate when it comes to treatment recommended. What will be said to patients during presentation? What verbiage will be used in order to increase treatment acceptance? Is there any additional paperwork that will need to be given in order for the patient to make an informed decision? What will the paperwork say? Who will present the paperwork and go over any questions with the patient?
The doctor will lay a lot of the groundwork and then bring it to the hygienists if they will be performing the treatment. Then they will bring it to the staff meeting to help educate the entire staff. With any procedure performed or equipment utilized in your practice, it is important for the entire team to be educated about the risk, benefits, and alternative treatment. Whether it be probes used for probing teeth, or why root planing is recommended to patients - the entire team needs to be on board with any treatment recommended to make it as successful as it can be.
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