One of the first things we cover at MGE is the responsibility the doctor has with regards to treatment acceptance. And the key word here is acceptance. While you may have any number of staff involved in this line (i.e. a Treatment Coordinator who works out the finances, a Financial Secretary who files insurance and so on), the ultimate responsibility for all of this comes back to the doctor.
With that in mind (and assuming you’re applying what we teach at the MGE Communication and Sales Seminars), there are two very simple things the doctor can do to get (or keep) treatment acceptance at a high level. They are:
1. Get a Patient’s Agreement to do Treatment.
Most treatment plan presentations go like this:
- Doctor tells patient what they need (i.e. three crowns on the top right and two fillings on the bottom left).
- Then the doctor tells the patient that the office’s financial coordinator (or another staff member) will go over financial arrangements with the patient. Doctor leaves the room.
- The financial coordinator comes in to talk to the patient, covers what insurance will pay, what their co-payment will be, how to pay their co-payment and so on. The patient listens and at the end says “okay,” (or, “let me think about it,” or “I’ll talk to my husband/wife, and so on.”) That’s the end of it and then the patient leaves the office.
What’s missing? Actually quite a bit – but the missing “fundamental” was:
The doctor never actually asked the patient to do the treatment, or told them they needed to do the treatment and why.
It’s a little bit of “you don’t get what you don’t ask for” with patients. I have seen a tremendous change in a doctors’ treatment acceptance and collections when they simply tell patients that they should start and follow through with the full treatment plan as soon as possible.
Don’t feel embarrassed about telling your patients to do what is best for them. And don’t forget to tell patients how much it will cost – another key point. If you explain the treatment plan, make sure the patient understands its necessity, and get their agreement to move ahead, then it will decrease the chances of your patient walking out the door “unclosed.”
2. Presenting the Entire Treatment Plan
I’ve also seen cases where a dentist won’t tell patients everything they need to fix. The reasons behind this may vary – but what I usually find is the doctor is “backed-off” or afraid of scaring/overwhelming the patient. For instance, doctor informs patient they need a “deep cleaning” or scaling when in fact they need this and a root canal and four crowns. The thought process here is “Let’s get the patient happy with our office before we tell them everything they need.” While there are many variations on this and it’s understandable to not want to scare/upset a patient, this can be a double-edged sword. Why? Every time patients come to back to the practice, they will think, “Oh, the dentist found something else. Something else is wrong with me.”
It’s like when you take your car to a dealership service center. The mechanic sees that your battery is dying, your transmission is starting to go, and a few electrical parts have to be replaced. But they tell you about one repair at a time. So you say to yourself: “Every time I go to get my oil and filter changed, they slap me with another $500 bill.” Or you think, “Well, if it was already going bad last time I was in here, why didn’t you just tell me about it then?”
In my opinion, the best thing to do is explain to patients everything they need that will restore their oral health, aesthetic and function. Even if they don’t agree to the complete treatment right away, they won’t feel like they are getting “nickel-and-dimed,” when they come to your office. They will have some idea of treatment they still need to do, and they will be that much closer to doing it.
We get into this in more detail at the MGE Communication and Sales Seminars.
Finally, I wanted to share how one new MGE client applied this information after doing one MGE Communication and Sales Seminar:
A young man came to see this doctor about a tooth that was bothering him; the doctor (prior to MGE) would have temporized the tooth and told him to come back another day for a comprehensive exam and x-rays. The patient probably would have lost interest at that point, and it would have taken the front desk staff a ton of effort to get him back in again.
As it turned out, the doctor did have some time to do the full exam with x-rays right then, and the patient agreed to it. From there, the doctor presented the full treatment plan to the patient and said, “Bill (not the patient’s real name…) this is what we are going to do because this is what is ultimately going to take care of you. It’s going to be $6,500. If you pre-pay today, you can save 5%. We also have financing options with 0% interest.” That patient said he didn’t need financing and paid the entire amount right then. And they did the full treatment within a few weeks, leaving the patient happy and confident in his doctor.
Before, the doctor would not have asked the patient about doing the treatment. In this case, not doing the full treatment, or at least making the patient aware of it, could have made things worse for the patient as he needed a root canal on the original tooth that was bothering him.
So, give these things a try. And if you haven’t already done so – I’d highly recommend the MGE Communication and Sales Seminars. These seminars will train you on the fundamentals of treatment acceptance. Learning and drilling these tools can put you in control over your practice’s profitability and allow you to do more of the comprehensive dentistry you love. Call us at (727) 530-4277 or (800) 640-1140 (toll-free) for more information!