1.22.10 Issue #411 Forward This Newsletter To A Colleague

Do You Need a Treatment Coordinator?
by Sally McKenzie CEO
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Dentists often assume that if a patient requires extensive treatment, they expect to hear that information from the dentist directly. While that may be the best approach in many instances, it isn’t in all. Oftentimes, low treatment acceptance is rooted in the patient’s lack of dental education and understanding. The dentist may firmly believe that Mr. Smith comprehends what is being proposed and will proceed with treatment, only to discover that he has multiple questions that he is trying to clear up with the scheduling coordinator on his way out the door. Mr. Smith didn’t really get this part or that aspect of what he was being urged to do, and he didn’t feel comfortable raising the questions with the doctor.

This is where a treatment coordinator can benefit the doctor, as well as the entire practice, tremendously. While the dentist must discuss certain issues to meet informed consent standards such as the nature of the problem, recommended treatment, potential complications from the treatment or complications if no treatment is pursued, as well as alternatives to recommended treatment, many other details can be addressed by the treatment coordinator. In particular, the big three: how much time will it take; how much money will it cost; and will it hurt.

For example, the treatment coordinator can spell out for the patient the number of appointments that will be necessary, what to expect at each appointment, and the length of time that will be required for each appointment. This person can also cover issues of concern that the patient might have, such as worries regarding pain or discomfort, and she can discuss the all important issue of treatment financing.

Patients perceive that the coordinator has the time to answer questions and listen to concerns. They can raise difficult or awkward questions that most would never consider posing to the doctor, such as: Does the dentist have enough experience with this procedure and are they good at it? Is there a guarantee attached to this type of comprehensive work? Have many of the doctor’s patients had this treatment? If you were me, would you have this done? What’s more, patients often see the coordinator as someone who can understand their financial concerns and their need for financial options.

Clearly, this isn’t a job for just anyone. Your treatment coordinator needs the right mix of personality traits, clinical expertise, and people skills. Assign the responsibility to a member of the staff or hire an employee who offers the following:

  • Quick to build rapport with patients
  • Has an understanding of dentistry and dental procedures
  • Believes in the doctor and his or her skills
  • Is well organized
  • Is able to comfortably discuss fees and financial arrangements with patients

Provide professional training for the treatment coordinator, and assign the individual the following responsibilities:

  • Educate patients about dentistry
  • Conduct case presentations
  • Complete new patient introductions
  • Follow-up on unscheduled treatment
  • Build insurance information files that can be accessed easily
  • Present fees for the recommended treatment plans and establishing payment terms with patients

In addition, beyond ensuring that you have the right person directly presenting treatment to patients, involve the entire team. As I mentioned last week, it can take as many as 12 conversations with a patient before they accept treatment. You want to make sure you and your team are seizing every opportunity at every appointment. For example, the doctor recommended that Mr. Smith get a crown on a cracked tooth on his upper right side. He’s been putting it off but has a hygiene appointment scheduled soon.

This is the opportunity to further educate Mr. Smith, starting with the confirmation phone call. The person who confirms appointments should have treatment recommendations readily available on each patient, so that Mr. Smith can be reminded that the doctor is concerned about the condition of that tooth on the upper right side.The hygienist reiterates the doctor’s recommendations and further explains the benefits of pursuing treatment. The assistant provides Mr. Smith with a brochure explaining the frequently asked questions about the treatment. And as the scheduling coordinator is making Mr. Smith’s next hygiene appointment, she asks him if he would like to come in next week and get that crown taken care of.

Each of these conversations is planned and follows a carefully formulated script. Moreover, at no point does the process become heavy-handed or pushy, but rather the entire team is able to emphasize that the care delivered is important to the health and well being of the patient. Everyone on staff should be able to effectively articulate the value of pursuing that care. 

McKenzie Management offers a 1 day Treatment Acceptance Training Program performed one-on-one in La Jolla, CA.  Call for more details 1.877.777.6151.

Interested in speaking to Sally about your practice concerns? Email her at sallymck@mckenziemgmt.com. Interested in having Sally speak to your dental society or study club? Click here.

Hear Sally’s FREE Podcast at The Dentist’s Network - HERE

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