Are Patients Accepting Treatment Options or Opting Out?
You have an amazing website where patients can see real life testimonials and information regarding your latest new technology, and you have patient centered incentives like digital x-ray, teeth whitening for life, massage chairs, lemon scented towels, easy parking, convenient hours and a no-waiting policy. You even have a private consultation room to present treatment options without interruption from the phone and patients checking in and out. Congratulations – however, treatment acceptance is still flat at 55-65% and that is for just the basic stuff, not the veneer cases or the implant restorative that you dreamed about doing.
No two dental offices are the same, so this situation requires some analysis. The perception of Dr. J was that patients were accepting almost 100% of his treatment options, but there was a change in decision at the front desk. Analysis at the desk revealed one full time business coordinator with a clinical background answering the phone, checking-in and checking-out patients, and presenting treatment.
I asked the business coordinator: “When is the last time you used the consultation room?” She responded with, “Unfortunately, not for a long time because I can’t leave the desk unless someone in the back office is not busy and they can fill-in for me. My job is to keep them busy back there so I fill the schedule with little to no open time. It isn’t difficult to appoint patients for fillings and single crowns, especially when these procedures are covered partly by insurance, but for the cosmetic procedures I just tell them I will send a treatment estimate and a pre-determination to their insurance.”
Without the time and privacy to present the benefits and demonstrate the long term value of restorative dentistry to the individual health of the patient, the opportunity to perform anything but basic care goes out the door with the patient.
According to the ADA in the Dental Tribune February 2014 edition, dental spending “stays flat” and has since 2008. The reason stated is that working age adults are visiting the dentist less frequently, with fewer people covered by employer-sponsored dental benefits. According to Stephen Hoopes, an analyst from IBISWorld Industry, consumers lacking dental insurance range from 26-42%. Within this group are people who value dental care but think insurance is the only way to get it. The good news is there is projected growth in the dental insurance industry with the enactment of health care reform provisions. The shift to the long term value of the benefits of good dental care aimed at those without insurance should be considered in all marketing strategies.
Further analysis of the demographics of Dr. J’s practice revealed that 60% of his practice was contracted with PPO policies, leaving 40% out-of-network and cash patients. His treatment acceptance for services considered as “enhancing the quality of life” or “cosmetic” were equally low in both groups. Dr. J’s philosophy of “A patient is a patient regardless of how they pay me” is a good one, but leaves many patients feeling slighted by the lack of time given to them to understand how they could afford good dental care.
The hard working business coordinator for Dr. J stated that most of the patients did not want to apply for funding with CareCredit. When asked how often she presented this valuable payment option, she responded with “It is a time issue and I just refer them to the CareCredit website or I give them an application to take home.” CareCredit provides excellent handout information, a very easy application process from the office, and training for the dental staff. CareCredit has made it possible for thousands to get the dental care they want with affordable monthly payments. Without help with this process, many patients simple do not take the time to apply. If you don’t think it is important, they won’t either.
It is easy to understand why many practices become focused on what the insurance will cover, because the majority of their active patients are in-network for contracted services. Don’t let your 60% become 100% of your focus. Want to learn more about your practice and how to improve treatment acceptance using the tools available to you? Take a Professional Business Training Course or the Treatment Acceptance Course offered by McKenzie Management.Forward this article to a friend
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