11.29.13 Issue #612 info@mckenziemgmt.com 1-877-777-6151 Forward This Newsletter

Eliminate Barriers to Treatment Acceptance
By Sally McKenzie, CEO

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Understandably, it can be agonizing for those eager to provide comprehensive dentistry to waste precious time presenting treatment plans that are relegated to the patient’s “maybe someday” list. But how do dentists and their teams get patients to pull the trigger on procedures without coming across as pushy?

First step, understand the scope of the challenge you are facing. That starts with carefully monitoring the Unscheduled Treatment Plan Report or similar report. To ensure that the data contained in the report is accurate, all treatment plans must be entered into the system by the treatment coordinator.

If your Unscheduled Treatment Plan Report indicates that treatment acceptance is below 85%, it’s time to develop and implement a plan of action. This action plan will likely require treatment presentation training and scripts. In addition, it will be essential to evaluate whether your practice makes it easy for patients to pursue the treatment they want and need. Certain software programs allow you to determine almost immediately if a patient is eligible for treatment financing options, such as those offered through CareCredit.

Next, take a close look at your treatment communication channels. Too many dentists still hold onto the myth that if they mention the need for treatment a time or two to the patient, they have done what they can to convince the individual of the need. In reality, it can take as many as 12 conversations before the patient will move forward with care.

But ongoing communication with the patient is only part of the equation. As many dental teams eventually come to realize, a multitude of factors play a role in securing treatment acceptance - and in some cases, one of the biggest obstacles is the doctor. The fact is, the doctor is not always the right person for the job. Certainly it’s not easy for the doctor to look in the mirror and acknowledge that while s/he may be an excellent clinician and superior at treatment planning, presenting the package to the patient is something better off delegated to a well-trained staff member.

Understandably, some dentists can find the prospect of turning over treatment presentation to a staff member extraordinarily challenging. But if the doctor isn’t delivering an 85% treatment acceptance rate or better, it’s time to consider changing the strategy. The dentist must discuss certain issues to meet informed consent standards, such as the nature of the problem, recommended treatment and potential complications associated with the procedure. But 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? Will it hurt? The treatment coordinator can explain what to expect at each appointment. S/he also can cover issues of concern that the patient might have such as worries regarding pain or discomfort. And s/he can discuss the all important issue of treatment financing.
In reality, patients are often much more comfortable discussing their treatment plans with an auxiliary staff member than with the dentist. It is quite common for patients to feel uncomfortable asking detailed questions of the dentist. Some are concerned they may unintentionally imply that they do not trust the doctor’s recommendation. Others are worried they are taking up too much of the doctor’s valuable time. Still others find that if they do ask questions, the answers are too clinically detailed to truly understand.

In addition, patients often feel awkward discussing fees with dentists. Many patients see dentists as being in a very high-income bracket, and they perceive that the dentist may not understand their financial limitations. Conversely, dentists who get into the habit of discussing fees and financial arrangements with patients can feel unnecessarily pressured to make concessions or provide credit options that are well beyond what is reasonable for a small business to offer.

What’s more, dentists typically don’t see any problem with presenting treatment plans in the operatory. However, patients feel they are at the mercy of the doctor in this space; it is not conducive to a relaxed, detailed discussion. More comprehensive treatment plans should be delivered in a separate area of the office designated as a “no interruption zone” where specifics can be spelled out and patients are encouraged to ask questions.

For more information on this topic, visit my blog: The Lighter Side

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