Patients Not Accepting Treatment? Here’s Why
For reasons you don’t understand, most of your patients aren’t going forward with treatment you recommend, even when you think they’re ready to schedule. Not only are you starting to take this lack of case acceptance personal, it’s costing you money and keeping your practice from meeting its full potential.
And I’m not talking about a little bit of money. If your case acceptance rate is below the 85% benchmark, you’re losing thousands of dollars every year. It’s also shaking your confidence and lowering team morale – none of which will help you reach practice success and profitability.
I know this situation is frustrating, but I’m here to help you turn it around. Over the years, I’ve worked with many dentists who struggled with case acceptance, and I know what it takes to get patients to that all-important yes.
First, you have to figure out why patients aren’t accepting treatment. Here are some of the most common reasons patients opt to forego treatment and what you can do to change their minds.
You handle your own case presentations. When presented with treatment, most patients have questions. They’re likely worried about cost, if the procedure will hurt and how much time they’ll need to take off work. But if you only spend 10 minutes with them going over the procedure and why it’s necessary, they won’t ask those questions. Trust me, they can tell when you’re in a hurry to get to the next patient, and feel guilty taking up too much of your time.
The truth is, you just don’t have time to offer proper case presentations – you know, the kind that make patients comfortable accepting treatment. That’s why I suggest hiring a Treatment Coordinator. This team member should handle case presentations for all practice producers, and spend as much time as necessary going over every aspect of treatment with patients. The Treatment Coordinator should talk with patients in a quiet, comfortable environment, and then follow up two days after the initial presentation.
Patients don’t feel a connection to your practice. Even if patients understand the need for treatment, they won’t entrust you with their care if they don’t feel some kind of connection to you and your practice. You have to spend time building a rapport with patients and earning their trust. Talk with them about their jobs, their families and their oral health goals. Educate them about your practice and the services you offer. This will make them more comfortable during their visits and more likely to accept treatment.
You don’t provide enough education. If patients don’t see value in the treatment you’re recommending, they’re not going to move forward. You have to spend time educating them about the importance of maintaining their oral health, and the consequences of not treating the problem you’ve diagnosed. Use your intraoral camera to show them what’s going on in their mouths and have them watch educational videos about the procedure you’re recommending. Give them educational brochures and answer their questions, and be sure to stress the value of dentistry.
Remember, educated patients are more likely to accept treatment. Look at every patient interaction as an opportunity to educate, and you’ll begin to see your case acceptance rate rise.
You don’t offer financing. Often, patients say no to treatment simply because they can’t afford it. They just don’t see how they can pay for the procedure on top of the other expenses they already have, so they decide the treatment will have to wait.
If you want more patients to accept treatment, consider offering third party financing such as CareCredit. This eases the financial burden and makes the thought of paying for treatment much more manageable. Instead of writing one large check, patients can pay a small amount every month. This flexibility will make them more likely to say yes to expensive procedures.
You don’t listen. Patients come up with many reasons to say no to treatment, but that doesn’t mean you can’t change their mind. Don’t take no as their final answer. When patients say they’re not ready to move forward, ask them why and really listen to what they tell you. Tailor your education to address their specific concerns. If you determine what the perceived barrier is and address it, you’ll find patients are more likely to say yes.
Case acceptance is vital to your practice’s success. If everyone says no to treatment, you’re not going to bring in any money. You have to find a way to get patients to say yes, so you can grow your production numbers and your bottom line.
If you need more guidance, I’m happy to help. Consider taking my one day treatment presentation training to learn exactly what you need to do to improve case acceptance in your practice.
Next week, How to improve case acceptance and grow your bottom line.
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
How to Improve Communication with Your Team
If you’re not communicating properly with your team, it’s likely leading to conflict in your practice. Your team members don’t understand why you handle treatment the way you do, which leads them to gossip about your methods over the lunch hour. You’re frustrated because team members aren’t meeting your expectations – even though you never really told them what those expectations are.
If you want a successful practice, you need a strong, supportive team behind you. That not only means hiring the right people, it also means communicating with them, which can be a struggle for many practices. Here are a few tips to help you improve communication in your practice, which will lead to a happier, more productive team.
1. Don’t assume your team knows what you know. Just because your team members have years of experience doesn’t mean they have the same knowledge as you. And even if they have questions about the treatment you’re recommending, many hygienists and assistants have non-confrontational temperaments so they never ask. Instead, they form their own opinions, and sometimes those opinions are negative.
How do you work around this? Train your team members to see what you see. Help them understand why you formulate your treatment plans and deliver treatment the way you do. Take time during your monthly team meetings to discuss a specific case and your reasoning behind the treatment plan. This only takes about 10 minutes, but will do wonders to promote a sense of teamwork in your office.
It’s also important to train team members any time you incorporate a new technology, technique or material. Let them know what you expect from them and how to properly use the equipment or successfully perform new procedures.
2. Make your expectations clear. When you let team members know your expectations, they’ll be much less likely to disappoint you. Communicate this through detailed job descriptions that include performance measurements, as well as thorough one-on-one communication.
3. Let them know when they do something wrong. When you see a team member do something that’s not acceptable, you can’t just ignore the behavior and hope it won’t happen again, because it will. Take the team member aside and discuss your concerns privately. Many dentists prefer to talk about the problem during a morning huddle or a morning staff meeting, but this isn’t effective. The team member you need to address might not even realize what you’re saying is directed at him or her.
Now if the behavior brings up an issue that you feel should be discussed with the entire team, by all means do so – but never single out the employee who triggered the conversation. No one likes to be called out, and all this will do is lead to hurt feelings and resentment. Talk to the team member privately and he or she will be much more likely to correct the situation.
4. Let team members know it’s OK to express their concerns. Many team members just don’t feel comfortable going to the dentist with concerns, especially if the concern involves the dentist. You have to let team members know it’s OK for them to come to you with questions or if any problems arise. In fact, encourage them to do so. This will help keep any conflict from getting out of control. It will also give you the opportunity to educate team members, or to fix problems you didn’t even know existed in the practice.
Here’s an example of how these conversations might go:
“Dr. Miller, I noticed during the procedure with Mrs. Smith that you did_____________. So I can have a better understanding of why you did that, would you explain it to me?” Dr. Miller’s response should be, “Susan that is a great question. Let me explain.”
This type of communication will help team members truly understand the dentistry you provide, and the reasons you make certain decisions regarding treatment. It will also keep them from gossiping about you at the lunch table, which can only lead to trouble.
5. Keep your team members informed. Dentistry is constantly evolving. You pride yourself on keeping up-to-date with the latest, and attend CE courses to enhance your skills so you can provide your patients with the best care possible. That’s great, but do you share what you’ve learned with your team?
When you return from a CE class or a tradeshow, talk to your team members about what you’ve learned and why you want to implement certain technologies or techniques into your practice. This will help keep your team on the same page, as well as excited about any new technology you invest in. And don’t forget your team members want to improve their skills as well. Encourage them to attend CE courses with you or on their own.
When you communicate with your team, it reduces the chance for conflict and increases the efficiency of your practice. And when everyone works well together, your patients will notice. Focus on improving communication and you’ll soon see your practice begin to flourish.
Dental Plan Contracts and Processing Policies: Required Reading
Yes, having dental benefits for a procedure doesn’t mean there will be payment for the procedure. The list for benefit limitations can be as long as the list for covered benefits. Also make sure to read the benefit exclusions of the plan to further understand the policy procedures. Frequency limitations are just one of the policy limitations that can change from group to group under the same insurance company; it is important not to assume a 5 year replacement clause is for all plans under the same insurance.
When a new patient calls your office and wants to make an appointment, one of the questions asked is whether or not dental insurance will be considered as part of the payment of services. The focus is on whether or not there are dental benefits available for this eligible patient. Plan benefit information is available online (if you are contracted) or by direct phone or by fax. Experienced dental business staff know the pitfalls of the benefit statement, because there are many reasons a service listed as a covered benefit may not be paid when submitted.
Many dentists become fed-up fighting with PPO insurance to get paid for what they feel are legitimate claims of warranted services. When it comes to money being paid to dentists, it really boils down to their processing policy, not whether the dentistry is deemed professionally necessary for the patient. Many if not most dentists sign a PPO contract without carefully reading the PPO Processing Policy Manual. Understanding the intended language of the dental plan contract and the processing manual should be required of all employees dealing with processing the procedures and the claims in dental practices.
Claims for dental procedures are processed based on the limitations and exclusions established by the plan document and upheld by the processing policy manual. Most of the time dentists get summaries of the dental plan but patients can get the entire document from their HR or from the payer and pass it on to the dental practice. The processing policy manual can be obtained from the provider relation department or sometimes on the plan website. As in any contract, reading the “fine print” is important, for instance, if a radiograph is determined to be not diagnostic quality or medically necessary, the payer may request a refund.
Filing appeals to the insurance company can be a long and often futile battle, but sometimes the insurance company will review and allow some benefits on a case-by-case basis. It is always recommended to appeal a denial and let your patient know that you are trying to get the claim paid.
For example, a patient claim was filed for a crown on an implant. This was an initial placement crown because the tooth had been extracted and did not have an existing crown on it. The insurance company kept denying the claim saying it had been paid and there weren’t any benefits due to a frequency limitation clause. The patient was disputing the bill and was not paying. The insurance claim agent said repeatedly that the claim was paid for the crown. Finally after more questions and speaking to a supervisor, it was discovered that the crown had been paid but not to the restorative doctor who did the work, it was paid to the surgeon that placed the implant. The restorative dentist ended up being paid by the surgeon and it had a happy ending.
You will be far more successful navigating the world of dental claim reimbursement if you not only check your patient’s eligibility and benefits, but read the plan’s limitations and exclusions and communicate this to your patients prior to embarking on a treatment plan.
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