Cha-Ching! Making Patient “Face Time” Pay Off
A recent Citibank survey revealed that during the challenging economy of the last few years, many small businesses sought to reinvent themselves by expanding services, improving staff, and increasing “face time” with customers. The extra effort is paying off for several of the small business owners surveyed, as they are seeing far more positive business conditions than reported two years ago.
Understandably, many dentists feel wedded to what they consider to be treatment presentations. They will say again and again, “Patients expect the doctor to explain the treatment.” Yet, when the so-called “treatment presentation” takes place, in actuality, most dentists aren’t presenting the treatment plan. They are the opening act, if you will. Through the exam and diagnosis, most dentists merely introduce the topic for discussion.
For example, the doctor will suggest to Mrs. Patient that she consider an implant rather than a bridge. The doctor gives a brief explanation of what an implant is. The patient nods in affirmation. But the patient has only begun to register what the doctor recommended and is trying to absorb the information. The fact is that though the patient may be listening, it’s likely that she does not fully understand and will not move forward until she does. In fact, a verbal explanation has the least amount of return on investment of all the presentation strategies. The doctor, however, believes s/he has explained the procedure well and turns the patient back over to the assistant for dismissal. Now the patient starts asking questions: “So what’s this implant thing again? Why is this better than a partial? Does it cost the same? Can I get it done soon? Are other patients getting these? How will it hold up?”
In other situations, the patient is trying to absorb the information as s/he walks to the business desk, and it is here that the questions begin. Thus, the business staff suddenly find themselves responsible for providing information that could make or break the patient’s decision - and most are poorly prepared for this responsibility. Treatment presentation/acceptance is one of the most critical systems in the practice. It is here that a significant portion of practice revenues can be made or lost. It requires specific procedures, a designated treatment coordinator, proper training, measurement of its effectiveness, and accountability. Achieving the 85% goal for treatment acceptance is essential in helping the practice move forward, grow, and meet other established goals and objectives.
The time that the treatment coordinator spends with patients is absolutely critical to practice success. This person must ensure consistency in the messages delivered to patients about various procedures, and is responsible for answering the many questions that patients have but often don’t want to bother the doctor with. S/he must ensure that patients understand their options both with regard to treatment and financing, and must put patients at ease about their decisions. But it doesn’t stop there. The treatment coordinator must keep patients from falling through the scheduling cracks. If the patient doesn’t schedule treatment right away, it is the treatment coordinator who follows up. And as practices are doing more phased treatments, this requires more patient monitoring than in the past.
Additionally, the treatment coordinator tracks trends in the office. If patients are not pursuing a particular course of treatment, the coordinator is responsible for learning why so that the practice can make necessary adjustments. In addition, each time a new type of product or service is introduced in the practice, the treatment coordinator sits down with the doctor who explains what is being done and how it benefits the patients. The two identify what specific aspects of this treatment will be most important to the patients and how that should be communicated during the treatment introduction and presentation.With a clear treatment presentation system delivered by a well-trained treatment coordinator, patients are completely comfortable discussing treatment, asking questions, and proceeding accordingly. In making the investment to maximize the quality of this type of “face time” with patients, the practice ensures the greatest return: a full and profitable schedule.
For more information on this topic, visit my blog: The Lighter Side.
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