Treatment Acceptance - It’s All About Priorities
From where you sit, the stakes are extremely high. You will either win or lose based on a tiny sliver of time in which you put enormous pressure on yourself and your “performance.” You are convinced that if you can just wow them with your knowledge, if you convey your sincere and caring demeanor and help them to understand that you’ll make the process oh-so-easy and the payments oh-so-affordable, then “yes” will be the only logical answer. They will beg you to work them into the schedule tomorrow.
You deliver the message. You’ve communicated the importance and value clearly. In your mind, you hit this treatment presentation on all cylinders. But the only response you get is, “I’ll think about it and get back to you.” Why? They need the treatment. You need the acceptance.
Oftentimes, dental teams mistakenly view the treatment presentation as a one-time event that is a make-it-or-break-it performance. In many cases, patient treatment acceptance is based more on the practice’s relationship with the patient than the persuasiveness of your delivery. And the process begins long before you sit across from them, eager to present the best that you and your clinical team have to offer.
Successful treatment presentations begin with solid foundations, and the cornerstone is trust. Trusting relationships take time to build. Certainly, most dentists are trustworthy individuals. It’s hard to imagine that someone wouldn’t trust you. After all, what’s not to trust? You’re hardworking, dedicated, committed, and others should trust your professional judgment. But these days, very few practices enjoy a bounty of wholly trusting patients who pursue treatment merely because the doctor recommends it.
Without question, patients trust you enough to come in for routine appointments. But when they need or want care that goes beyond “routine” procedures, their desire to say yes is often influenced by their need for more than just your expert recommendation. Many factors are likely to come into play when the patient is considering major procedures, such as full comprehension of the need for treatment; the importance of the procedure to them in terms of life, aesthetics, health; possible ramifications if they choose to procrastinate or elect an alternative procedure; financing options; how they feel about the practice as a whole – not just the doctor; and, most importantly, their own priorities. Which makes it vitally important for dental teams to make the effort to understand patient treatment priorities from day one.
Too often dental teams are so focused on the importance of their own priorities in recommending quality care that they fail to even consider the patients’ motivations in pursuing treatment. Have you taken the time to really understand the patients’ priorities? Doing so can have a profound impact on treatment acceptance. When your recommendations and the patient’s motivations and priorities are in sync, treatment acceptance increases exponentially. Why? Because the patient feels that you understand their wants and needs. What’s more, the patient feels in control. They aren’t being “sold,” rather they are choosing to buy. There is no pressure. You are delivering what the patient needs and desires, based on the patient’s priorities and your expertise.
But how do you get to this place in which your recommendations and your patients’ priorities are in sync? It begins with the patient interview, which is frankly a stuffy way of describing what should simply be a good conversation that you have with your new patients at their first appointment and with your existing patients about every 18-24 months.
It might include conversation starters along these lines: Does your smile give you confidence when interacting with people both personally and professionally? What, if anything, bothers you about your smile or your oral health in general? If I gave you a magic wand, what would you change about your smile? Do you ever have problems with chewing or with pain in your mouth? On a scale of 1 to 10, where would you place the value of keeping your teeth and oral health in optimum condition? Have you ever had any problems or concerns with our office? Is there anything that you would like us to do differently?
You’ll be amazed how much dentistry you sell when you focus more on your patient’s treatment priorities and less on the treatment presentation itself.
McKenzie Management offers one-on-one Treatment Acceptance Training to help you improve patient commitment. Details can be found HERE.
Next week, do you take your “good” patients for granted?
For more information on this topic and more, visit my blog: The Lighter Side
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Does Your Practice Have a “Vitamin C” Deficiency?
One of my favorite television programs is “Shark Tank” on ABC. Primarily the show is about small business owners and entrepreneurs who are looking for investors to take their business to the next level. They have an opportunity to present their pitch to the “sharks”, a group of highly successful investors with amazing track records of making a lot of money. If one or more of the sharks sees a good chance of making money on the venture, they will make an offer to invest in the business. The sharks can get tough with their questions, sometimes bringing the business owner to tears or to anger.
What if your practice was pitched to the sharks as an investment opportunity? Do you think you would get the dollars you need, or be asked to leave because of your deficiencies? Let’s examine your cash, credit and customers.
We’ll start with cash. What are your production and collection statistics? Are you producing to a goal that is set based on your realistic overhead plus margin for growth? Are you collecting at least 98% of the adjusted production? Are your accounts receivables at a healthy less than 10% in 90 day aging? Is your Business Coordinator collecting 35-55% of the production over the counter daily? Bills don’t adjust to your collections and neither do salaries. I see far too many offices letting patients walk out the front door without asking for payment, and that includes insurance co-payments and deductibles. Is the belief that when the patient gets a statement they will pay? The reality is, “if you don’t ask, you don’t get.”
How about credit? What happens when you don’t pay your lab technician on time? Your cases won’t get top priority and maybe the lab will drop you as a customer. Usually the lab asks for COD for all cases if they do decide to keep you. You can keep switching labs but sooner or later the word gets out. Paying bills with your credit cards without paying attention to whether there is enough to pay the credit card bill is frightening. When you run out of credit it can affect your ability to stay open for business. Do you offer credit to your patients so they can get the treatment they need? CareCredit is the answer for patients needing monthly payments and should be offered with every treatment plan. Most people use credit for the unexpected, and dentistry is often that for many people.
Lastly, what about customers/patients? Have you measured your patient retention? What does your practice do to keep patients/customers returning? Do you have a system to contact patients who are due to return or have not scheduled for treatment? Out of sight out of mind is not good business. If you were a real estate agent and you sold me a house, do you think I don’t need you anymore? People move for many reasons, with the average stay in a home being about 5 years. Wouldn’t it be prudent to keep in contact with the anticipation of me needing you in the future? If you don’t take the time to build a relationship with your patients they are less likely to remember you when they need a dentist.
So, did you make it out of the Shark Tank alive? Were there any negatives or questions about your practice that you could not answer? Do you feel you have a Vitamin C deficiency? The doctor is in the house. McKenzie Management has the tools to take your practice to the next level and the prescription for your deficiencies to start making a difference in the health of your practice immediately. From practice assessment to practice success through custom training and consulting, we have programs designed for the needs of your practice today. Is cash flow a problem but you think you are busy? Professional Office Manager Training or Front Office Training for your business staff will teach them how to schedule for production, collect what is produced and have a happy patient base. Call us today for a prescription for success.
Show Me the Money!
Have you looked at your Accounts Receivable Report lately? Your software may call it the Aging Report. What is it? This report is a list of patients/accounts that owe you money for services that you and/or your hygienist/assistant has provided for your patients. Is some or much of the money that is owed coming from the insurance companies? It could be, depending on how “insurance-driven” your practice is. Here are some important steps for your business team in managing your AR.
1. Always generate your AR report so it does not include credit balances. All software programs have this capability. For some, it’s as easy as not checking the button to include credit balances. For others, you must indicate the lowest balance to include, which would be $.01 or higher.
Credit balances artificially deflate your true AR. If you have a patient who owes you $100 and another patient who has a credit balance and you owe them $20, your “net” AR is $80 but $100 is still owed to you. It is not uncommon for me to visit an office where the AR report was not generated correctly and the doctor is under the impression that his AR was well under his net production until the report was generated properly. The more credit balances you are carrying, the more inaccurate the AR will be.
2. Always generate the Outstanding Insurance Claims Report. Call all the claims that are outstanding 15 days and higher. Avoid generating the report to include pre-estimates, as those claims are not necessary when it comes to “show me the money.” It is difficult to collect a payment from a patient when the balance is estimated to be due from their insurance company. And if the patient’s portion was estimated and collected at the time of service, they are probably right in most cases. So “Dial for Dollars” to the outstanding claims first.
3. Start “Dialing for Dollars” for those accounts without insurance, or where the insurance has paid when the balance is only 45 days old and they have already received a statement showing the charges and the payment from their insurance company. All software statement set-ups will allow you to change the “look back” date for ledger entries opposed to the defaulted 30 days. I would suggest 60 days so the patient doesn’t receive a statement that only says “Balance Forward.” Ask your business team how many calls they receive after the statements are mailed.
4. Send electronic statements weekly (or daily if you are a large practice) to a clearinghouse who then prints the statement, places it into a window envelope, inserts a return envelope with your name on it, puts a stamp on it and mails it for you. These companies can do this for less than you can do it yourself AND save your business team valuable time.
5. Log your calls. When placing phone calls to patients with outstanding balances, it is very important to log your call, whether it be a “left message regarding account” or the agreement that was made if you actually spoke with the patient, such as “Patient will send check on the 15th.” Just as important as logging the call is following up on the patient’s promise. Here is an example of a conversation:
“Hello Mrs. Jones? This is Nancy at ABC Dental. I was reviewing your account and noticed that you have a balance of $67. I wanted to confirm your address in case you failed to receive the statement that I mailed to you on July 12.”
Mrs. Jones replies that she will mail the payment next month.
“Thank you. I will make a note that you will be mailing your check on the 15th of next month. Have a nice day.”
At this point, a follow-up note should be made on the 20th of the next month to check the patient’s account and see if the payment was received. If it was NOT, it is important to place another call to Mrs. Jones.
“Hello Mrs. Jones? This is Nancy again at ABC Dental. According to my notes, when we spoke on July 31st you were going to place a check in the mail on the 15th of this month. My records indicate that we have not received your check. Would you prefer to pay with your credit card?”
If you fail to follow up after a promise of payment, the patient will assume that you really don’t care if they pay or not. See what happens when you fail to make a credit card payment or fail to follow through with your promise!
6. Avoid scheduling a patient who has a delinquent balance. Many times the patient will schedule their 6-month professional cleaning appointment and in the meantime, have restorative treatment completed. The next thing you know, they are coming back into the office for their hygiene appointment and have not paid their balance! By reviewing the routing slips when prepared, these delinquent balances can be revealed for follow-up prior to the patient coming in.
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