Why do patients keeping saying “No” to treatment?

By Sally McKenzie, CEO Printer Friendly Version

Lackluster case acceptance sure can do a lot of damage to your practice. Production numbers fall and your bottom line takes a hit, causing extra stress for you and your team members as you try to figure out what to do. It’s a frustrating place to be in, especially if you have no idea why patients keep saying no to treatment.

The truth is, it can be difficult to pinpoint what’s holding patients back—especially if you usually feel confident patients will schedule after finishing a case presentation. That’s where I come in. As an experienced dental consultant, I can tell you some of the most common reasons patients opt not to go forward with treatment, as well as how you can make them see the value of the care you provide. And once you have a better understanding of why patients say no, you’ll be able to make the changes necessary to finally reach that 85 percent case acceptance benchmark.

Here are some of the most common reasons patients opt to skip treatment:

They’re still not sure they can trust you. It takes time to earn a patient’s trust. Patients tend to be skeptical of any treatment a new dentist recommends, especially if that treatment adds up to thousands of dollars. Many patients will start to shut down if they’re overwhelmed by the treatment plan and may leave the practice thinking you’re only interested in one thing: selling patients on expensive dentistry. Not exactly the impression you want to give.

To avoid this scenario, I suggest you start out by only presenting treatment patients need right away. Explain that once you address immediate issues, you have other treatment options you’d like to discuss as well. Then, take the time to go over the treatment plan and to educate patients about their condition. This might include showing them x-rays, pointing out problems identified in intraoral images or playing educational videos. Through education, patients will start to understand why treatment is necessary, helping them to trust your recommendation and ultimately accept it.

They can’t afford it. Even if you focus on the most immediate dental needs first, recommended treatment can still be expensive. Many patients say no to treatment because they can’t afford it or would rather spend their money on something else. That’s why it’s so important to offer third party financing from companies like CareCredit. Patients can cover their dental bills in small monthly payments, rather than writing one big check. This makes them more comfortable accepting treatment, which gives both your practice production numbers and your bottom line a boost.


They don’t feel a connection with your practice. How do you establish this connection? Providing education helps, as does taking the time to build a rapport with patients rather than just focusing on the dentistry. While chairside, ask patients about their family, their jobs and their oral health goals. Make it clear you have their best interest at heart and that you see them as more than just a number. When you do that, they’ll be much more likely to accept treatment. And, if they’re happy with the results, they’ll be open to exploring other treatment options down the road as well.

They’re nervous about the procedure. Patients often have a lot of unanswered questions about treatment—even if they tell you they understand why it’s necessary and that they plan to schedule soon. That’s because many patients just aren’t comfortable asking the dentist questions. They might feel like their questions are silly or be worried they’re taking up too much of your time. So, they’re left feeling unsure about the procedure and why they need it, which means they never schedule.

That’s where a Treatment Coordinator can help. This team member can go over treatment plans with every patient, for as long as necessary. Instead of listening to the doctor’s recommendations while they’re still in the chair, patients can sit in a relaxed environment as they learn more about the benefits of treatment and the possible consequences of not going forward. The coordinator also can answer any questions they have and address any perceived barriers to care.

Of course, even though they’ll have a much better understanding of why accepting treatment is so important, patients likely still won’t schedule before they leave. Most patients want to think about their options and to talk everything over with a loved one. That’s why I suggest you train your coordinator to follow up with all patients two days after the initial presentation, while the conversation is still top of mind. Education should be the focus of this call. The coordinator can address any lingering concerns, with the goal of scheduling patients before they hang up.

Patients will appreciate this level of attention, helping to build those all-important connections. They’ll start to understand the value of the services you provide, and that will make them more likely to schedule.

Patients say no to treatment for many reasons. Understanding these reasons will help you grow case acceptance numbers and ultimately practice revenues, turning your struggling practice into a thriving practice.

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Interested in speaking to Sally about your practice concerns? Email sallymck@mckenziemgmt.com
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