By Sabri Blumberg
Deputy Chief Operating Officer

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Q: How should I handle a patient who only wants to do what their insurance pays for?

Not an uncommon problem! For me, I’d handle it like this:

1.   Explain the difference between regular insurance (car, home, health) and dental insurance.
2.   Make them understand WHY it’s unworkable to do only what their insurance covers.

I’ll elaborate…

1.   Explain the difference between regular insurance (car, home, health) and dental insurance.

Many patients equate dental insurance with regular insurance. Make it clear that dental insurance doesn’t work the same way insurance for cars, homes, health, etc., does. In most cases, insurance is a transfer of risk (we pay a monthly premium to an insurance company so it will financially cover our risk for accidents, natural disasters, health issues, etc.) Dental insurance, however, is a benefit – not a transfer of risk. Your patients (or patient’s employer) pay a monthly premium for the benefit of an annual lump sum ($1000, $1500, etc.) that will go toward their dental care. If patients need more than that yearly insurance sum to pay for the full treatment that they need, then they are out of luck. Insurance won’t cover the rest because they don’t assume the risk for oral care.

2.   Make them understand WHY it’s unworkable to do only what their insurance covers

Accepting and following through with their full treatment plan is obviously the ideal way to maintain oral health. Doing only what insurance will pay for usually leads to phased care and possible complications down the road (e.g. a patient breaks a tooth or now needs a root canal because he or she waited on a crown).

I suggest explaining the long-term advantages of healthy teeth and gums so your patient can decide whether or not they want to put their teeth above their insurance coverage. You should also make sure your patient understands the factual ramifications of putting off the treatment they need. Ensuring patients understand the long-term health ramifications will put them in a better position to accept “what the doctor ordered.”

Q: From time to time, my treatment presentations run over the allotted time. How can I manage my time so I am not late for the next patient?

As I mention in an earlier answer, some cases take longer to present than others. This is best handled ahead of time, especially if your consult is a pre-scheduled appointment. Rather than having a “stock” time for each and every consult, you should allot time based on:

1.   Your observation of the patient
2.   
The size of the treatment plan

No two patients are alike. To some degree you might already take this into account with clinical procedures: A crown prep appointment might ordinarily takes 30-40 minutes, but for a patient with a bad gag reflex you might allot more time when scheduling.

It works the same with consultation appointments.

A patient who seems upbeat and eager to improve their dental health will probably accept and pay for treatment in far less time than someone who is not very upbeat and afraid of the dentist. With regards to size of case, it normally takes longer to present a $10,000+ case than a $3,000 bridge.

If you keep these two factors (case size and patient attitude) when scheduling consults, you should have less trouble with running over.

With that said, at the MGE Communication and Sales Seminars, we will train you on how accurately observe and communicate with patients to get real results with improved treatment acceptance.  Find out more today!

Q: I’m currently doing my own hygiene, but thinking of hiring a hygienist. How important – really – is it to have a “Hygiene Department?”

Excellent question! Unless you’re just now starting a scratch practice, 30%+ of your collections should come from your hygiene department.  And this is not including revenues from new patients (assuming you would see them in hygiene first).

Why? Case presentations are essentially your “sales” opportunities, so collections for the most part will be proportional to the number of case presentations. If you’re seeing an average of 30 new patients a month, then you’re most likely (or should be) seeing at least 3 or 4 times that many patients in hygiene (i.e. recalls, etc.). There are far more patients on the hygiene schedule to whom you might present treatment.

Add this to the fact that patients of record are normally more accepting of a  treatment plan (as well as the presentation taking less time) than a new patient due to an existing relationship and rapport with the doctor and office.

Depending on the patient and the size of the case, some comprehensive treatment presentations take longer than others.  That said, I’m overly certain that many of your patients of record that you see for hygiene appointments have outstanding treatment plans. Having them regularly scheduled for routine exams and cleanings serves to not only maintain their oral health, but also provide additional opportunities to talk to them about their treatment plans.

More dentists than you would imagine lose enormous earning potential through an under-established (or non-existent) Hygiene Department. As an example, let’s take an office with 3,000 patients of record. This office is seeing five days per week of hygiene with an average of 6 hygiene patients per day: 30 patients per week or 1500 patients per year (assuming two weeks off a year). Doing the math, this only amounts to 750 patients on a regular hygiene schedule (if they’re coming twice a year – and many come 3 to 4 times). This office isn’t regularly seeing almost 75% of their patient base!

Granted, some of your patients may be more difficult to schedule than others. I would strongly recommend you invest some time into training your front desk staff to be able to schedule even the “tougher” patients. For that matter, if you have enough patients – at some point – you may want someone working part- and then full-time to keep hygiene booked. A well-run hygiene department can provide a number of benefits – healthier patients (who see you regularly) and a more profitable office. At MGE, we can train you how to do this confidently.