5 Reasons Patients Didn’t Accept Treatment in 2014
You never thought it would be this difficult. It should be simple, really – you recommend necessary treatment and the patient accepts it. Unfortunately, that’s just not the case at your practice. In fact, for reasons you can’t understand, it’s more common for your patients not to go forward with treatment than to actually say yes, and it’s killing your bottom line.
As 2014 comes to a close, now is a good time to take a look at your case acceptance numbers and figure out how to improve them, especially if those numbers fall well below the 85% benchmark. Case acceptance is a vital part of your practice’s success, and once you understand why patients are saying no to treatment, you can make the necessary changes that will help change their answer to yes.
In my more than 30 years of experience as a dental consultant, I’ve seen many practices struggle with case acceptance, and it happens for many reasons. To help get you back on the right path in the New Year, I’ve put together a list of five common reasons many patients decided not to go forward with treatment in 2014. Think about each one and what positive changes you can make in your practice…changes that will make patients excited to move forward with treatment.
1. You didn’t build strong relationships with your patients. No matter how skilled you are as a dentist, patients simply won’t go forward with treatment if they don’t trust you. In fact, if they don’t feel any connection to your practice at all, chances are they won’t be one of your patients for long.
Even though you’d likely prefer to just focus on the dentistry, you have to take the time to build rapport with your patients. Let them know you care about them and their oral health. Ask about their families and their jobs. Offer to answer any questions they might have. Make them feel comfortable with you and they’ll be much more likely to trust, and go forward with, your treatment recommendations.
2. You didn’t provide the necessary education. Sure, you know why your patients should go forward with treatment, but they don’t. You have to create value for them. You telling them they need a crown or periodontal therapy isn’t enough. Make patients understand their condition and the possible consequences of doing nothing, and remember to talk at their level. Using big dental words they don’t understand will leave them feeling confused, uncomfortable and looking for the first opportunity to bolt.
Instead of talking over their heads, provide education. Intraoral cameras serve as a great educational tool, and make it possible to show patients exactly what’s going on in their mouths. Patient education videos and informational brochures also go a long way in helping patients understand what the recommended procedure entails and why taking care of their oral health is so important. But don’t just leave them in the room with a video or hand them a brochure and walk away. Go over the information and ask if they have any questions. If you provide this education and show patients value in the treatment you’re recommending, you’ll find more patients will start saying yes.
3. You didn’t ask about their concerns. Chances are, patients have a lot of questions about the procedure you’re recommending, even if they don’t ask. They may just be too nervous to ask what they think are silly questions, or they feel bad for taking up your time. Look at their body language. If they look uncomfortable, try to put them at ease. Ask if they have any questions or concerns. This will give you a chance to address any misconceptions they have about the procedure, and help them understand why going forward with treatment is so important.
4. You handled case presentations yourself. While you may enjoy presenting treatment, you’re likely not the best person to do it. Five to 10 minutes with you in the operatory simply isn’t enough to make a nervous patient comfortable with treatment. Instead, hire a Treatment Coordinator. This team member should handle all treatment presentations in a comfortable, private office space, not a noisy operatory.
5. You didn’t offer financing. Money is a huge barrier to case acceptance. No matter how important the treatment is, many patients feel like they simply can’t afford it. If you don’t offer financing options, I can guarantee many patients will say no to treatment, even if they’d like to say yes. If you don’t already, consider offering a financing option such as CareCredit to your patients. This takes the focus off the ticket price, and eases worries about what saying yes will do to their pocketbook.
Case acceptance is the cornerstone of your practice. If patients aren’t accepting treatment, you’re losing money and patients aren’t receiving the care they need. But if you take the time to make positive changes in your practice, you’ll create loyal patients who trust you with their dental care. Your case acceptance numbers will rise and you’ll be well on your way to a profitable, successful dental practice in 2015.
If you need more help to get your practice on the right path, consider taking my One-Day Treatment Presentation Training.
Next week, How to improve case acceptance in 2015.
For additional information on this topic and more, visit my blog: The Lighter Side
Interested in speaking to me about your practice concerns? Email firstname.lastname@example.org
Scanner, Scanner, Who’s Got the Scanner?
Why do you need a scanner? I am sure that if you are “chartless” now, you already know the answer. If you are considering going chartless, you will need a scanner or multiple scanners, depending on how large your business office is and how many work stations you have. I am not going to recommend any specific scanners, but I will make recommendations on what to look for.
What to Look For: The “Workhorse” Scanner
Keep in mind that while the workstation using the scanner is processing, it is “out of commission.” I would suggest that you connect this scanner to a station that is not your primary workstation.
Examples of what you will use this for:
1. Scanning the EOBs for the day into a folder. As an example, this folder may be called “EOBs - 2014.” The file created would be the date that they were scanned. Think about all those boxes of EOBs you have. Check with your accountant to determine how many years you should hold onto those EOBs. Moving forward, why not simply scan them for the day and then shred them, instead of creating more boxes to store.
This is a task that anyone in the office can do when they have some time. The Financial Coordinator posting the checks for the day can paperclip all the EOBs together and place them in a “Scan Pile” for someone to scan in the near future.
2. Patient files. If you are still using paper forms for your patients, being able to scan all 3-4 sheets into the patient file of your dental management software is so convenient.
3. Daysheet, deposit and production reports. If you request a hard copy of the daysheet, deposit and production reports for the day, instead of keeping them in a binder, hanging folder or box, why not just scan them? You may ask, why keep a “hard copy” (in this case, a scanned copy)? Changes can happen to the data in the software and if you need to recreate the report, it is not always the same as it was on the original day, depending on your software.
What to Look For: The Small, Compact Scanner
1. Scanning a copy of the patient’s ID/driver’s license, insurance card or paperwork.
Some of these scanners will scan more than one sheet of paper at a time and others won’t. You need to decide how it will be used in your office and where it will be located. If you have a bookkeeper who comes in to pay bills or if you pay the bills, a small scanner to scan your receipts is helpful instead of keeping them in a file.
Don’t Be Fooled
I hope this has been helpful. If nothing else, remember to support your business team when they ask for a “real” scanner opposed to the scanner that came with the copier/printer. It will save time and help your practice to be as efficient as possible.
Positive Change in Collections for 2015
“Our patients will walk out the door if we ask them for money.” This blanket statement meant to derail or cancel out good financial arrangements is not true, but often used as an excuse by some dental office workers. Instructing dental business systems for almost a dozen years has taught me that people will make excuses for and defend what they are doing when it doesn’t work, because they don’t know what else to do. They have been scripted by fear and failure to accept mediocrity in job performance.
In Stephen R. Covey’s book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, he writes about the third character trait essential to “win-win” as the Abundance Mentality. Scarcity Mentality is a thought process that says you can have only so much and there isn’t enough to go around. If you buy into the notion that not every patient wants to pay or should have to pay for services when provided, you share the Scarcity Mentality. Operating in fear of losing patients because you ask for payment is absurd. Offering a 3-5% reduction in fee for services paid in full at the time of treatment ($300 or more) is an incentive to pay and also says payment is expected.
The Abundance Mentality, states Stephen R. Covey, “flows out of a deep inner sense of personal worth and security” and “there is plenty out there and enough to spare for everybody.” If you think you will lose patients if you ask them to pay at the time of service, then you might – if they haven’t been informed prior to treatment of their payment responsibility. On the other hand, if you treat your practice as a business that provides excellent dental care and customer service like any other business, then you collect for services as rendered. Even when dealing with third party payers that you have contracted, there is nothing that says you don’t collect the patient portion at the time of service. The arrangement for payment of your services by an in-network provider or out-of-network provider requires that the patient participate in costs by paying their estimated share and applicable deductibles. As a provider it is your contractual duty to make every effort to collect the patient’s share or possibly be audited for the return of insurance monies.
A recent survey from the Commercial Collection Law League of America estimates that practices routinely recover 93.8% of their receivables if collected in 30 days or less, 73.6% of receivables in 90 days past due, 57.8% of receivables in 189 days past due, and only 26.6% if the receivables go past a year. The longer the money is on the accounts, the less it is worth, and the more time and energy it takes to track down people and get a commitment to pay what they owe you. Another study shows that when patients owe you money, they don’t come back for further treatment until the debt is paid – all the more reason to collect at the time of service.
Communicating with patients about their proposed treatment, including total costs, estimated insurance participation and their estimated share, along with instructions as to when it is due and the options they have to pay, will set the ground rules for how payment is handled in your office. Without a system in place, the patient will direct you in how they want to pay, which usually results in your accounts receivables going up while your collection activity to recover the money is put on the back burner.
This year, make some positive changes in how you present financial arrangements and eliminate the high accounts receivables you struggle with now. When a patient wants monthly payments, remember not to carry these unpaid accounts on your books. Have the patient apply for a line of credit with CareCredit to get the account paid to you in full (minus a fee).
Want a better year in 2015? Stop the negative and get positive results. For help, call us today for customized training in financial, insurance and collection techniques which will improve your bottom line and bring harmony to your practice.
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