Give Patients the Services They Really Want
You’ve noticed patients just aren’t accepting the treatment you recommend anymore, at least nowhere near as often as you’d like. This unfortunate new trend is costing you money and bringing both you and your team members down. It seems the only patients guaranteed to accept treatment are the dreaded emergency patients who bring chaos to your day, never to return.
The most frustrating part is you have no idea why case acceptance is down. You haven’t made any drastic changes and you continue to offer the services you know your patients need.
That very well could be the problem. While you’re doing your best to provide patients with the services they need, you’re forgetting to also provide them with the services they want.
Just because you don’t like to perform extractions, for example, doesn’t mean an extraction isn’t the best option for the patient you’re treating – especially if the patient is in pain and that’s all he or she can afford. Some patients, on the other hand, might be interested in straightening their teeth, but only if their GP offers an option like Clear Correct or Invisalign.
The point is, if you want more patients to say yes to treatment, it might be time to expand your services. Ask patients, both new and existing, what their oral health goals are. Talk with them about the services you offer that help meet those goals, and ask what other services they might be interested in. When presenting treatment, give multiple options. This will lead to much better results than giving patients a treatment plan with just one choice. If patients aren’t interested in that treatment, chances are they’ll find another practice that offers what they’re looking for.
Now let’s get back to those emergency patients. Most dentists simply don’t spend much time treating them. Sure, they want to help get them out of pain, but the fact is, after dentists fit emergency patients into their already busy day and send their schedule out of whack, they typically never see them again, which can be pretty frustrating.
Emergency patients likely don’t come back because doctors rush them in and out and don’t take the time to provide education about the importance of maintaining their oral health. Instead they treat them and go back to their day as quickly as possible. Maybe they recommend further treatment, but they probably didn’t bother to ask these patients what services interest them. It’s no wonder they don’t come back.
Rather than treating emergency patients as a disruption to your day, look at them for what they really are: an opportunity. Clearly these patients don’t have a dental home, or they wouldn’t be calling your practice hoping you can see them. Ask why they haven’t been to a dentist in so long and start breaking down any perceived barriers. If you take the time to build a rapport, educate them and show that you care, there’s a good chance more emergency patients will turn into loyal patients.
Here are a few key points to keep in mind about emergency patients:
• They will come whenever you give them an appointment and are happy to be seen. Let them know you’re happy to see them too, and that you will do your best to get them out of pain. This will go a long way in getting these patients back to your practice.
• Because they aren’t “patients of record” yet, they can be cash patients (assuming you don’t participate with their PPO plan).
• They give you the opportunity to grow your practice. Invite them back and encourage them to schedule a comprehensive exam and hygiene visit before they leave.
Remember, these patients just want to get out of pain. If you recommend an extensive treatment plan, even if you think it’s the best option, they’re likely going to say no. Talk with them about other treatment they might need and how you can help, but be careful not to overwhelm them. You want them to schedule and keep a hygiene appointment, not run out of the practice as soon as they can.
So what are the benefits of this approach? You provide a wanted service to a patient in distress while staying productive and improving your cash flow. It also gives you the chance to promote your practice. If patients have a pleasant experience, they might even refer you to family and friends.
Being open to performing a variety of services will help ensure more patients say yes to treatment, whether they’re emergency patients or patients who have been coming for hygiene visits for years. Don’t assume you know what they want or what they can afford; ask them. When you provide them with the services they both want and need, your case acceptance rate will improve.
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