The benefits of increasing treatment plan acceptance are obvious:
- You collect more
- Your patients get the treatment they need
- You get to do the dentistry you love.
It’s a win-win situation – really.
For that matter, I don’t think there’s anything that’s easier to fix that has a more sweepingly positive effect on a dental practice than treatment plan acceptance.
At its core, it’s really a lesson in effective communication (key word effective) and STRUCTURE. By “structure,” we’re talking about the sequence of presentation and how it is scheduled. We cover all of this at the MGE Communication and Sales Seminars.
That said, here are three “Case Acceptance Killers” you should know your way around. I’ve also included what to do about them:
1. Selling on the fly
We have a rule we teach our clients: If you don’t have time to “close” a treatment plan – don’t start presenting it. Set up an alternate appointment – i.e. a consultation.
You need enough time to properly explain it, go over fees, answer questions, and so on.
How can you judge if you have time to “close” a case. Well, two factors come into play:
- The patient, and
- The size of the case.
Upbeat patient, small case = less time.
Patient who is not so upbeat and maybe a little crabby, big case = more time.
If you want to guarantee you won’t have time to discuss a case properly, try presenting a $10,000 case to a not-so-upbeat patient in 5 minutes while you have another procedure (i.e. a Root Canal) in the other chair.
The simplest way to handle this is to reschedule if you don’t have time – which means you need somewhere to reschedule a patient to. So, make some time in the schedule for consultations. For more information on this, see my webletter on Case Acceptance (Part II).
2. You need a zygomatic implant, apicoectomy and a bunch more things that you’re guaranteed to NOT understand.
Every specialty has its own terminology. Unfortunately, medicine and law use Latin and Greek. As such, the average Joe has no idea what half of dental terminology means.
One thing I’ve found (and mind you this is my opinion), is that people will refrain from asking questions – even when they should – because they are afraid it makes them look stupid.
If you use the word “Buccal” with a patient – he or she could assume that if you’re using it, they SHOULD know what it means.
So, you say it, you see the glazed look (you know the “I have no idea what you just said…” look), and then you ask the patient: “Do you understand?” or something like that. Of course they say “yes,” when in fact they have no idea.
There’s no faster way to confuse a patient; which is not a good “sales” technique!
To handle is simple:
- Avoid specialized words, and
- If you have to use them – explain them fully. Use pictures and models when possible.
3. You get what you ask for
By far the biggest offender is FAILURE TO PRESENT OR DISCUSS A TREATMENT PLAN. This happens a lot more than you’d think. New Patient needs a lot of work; although all this work could be done right away (i.e. no heavy perio involvement for which you would put off restorative treatment, etc.), the dentist still presents the treatment in “phases.” Why? The doctor is:
- Afraid of scaring the patient away with a “big price tag,”
- The doctor has some type of consideration (idea/concern) about discussing it.
Again, “2” happens more than you’d think. Doctor thinks patient can’t afford the treatment – just assumes and holds back. Or the doctor is concerned or “backed off” from discussing the fee and so refrains.
I’ve even seen it where a doctor didn’t want to remind a patient of record that they still had outstanding treatment “because they paid $5,000 for treatment last year.”
In each of these cases, no one is asking the most important person – the patient.
I happened to be on-site doing an in-office visit with the doctor during the example above (“patient paid $5,000 last year”).
I asked him about it as the patient was due in an hour. I pointed out that the worst that would happen is the patient would say, “No.” He presented the remaining treatment when the patient came in (about $4,000 worth) and lo and behold – the patient agreed and pre-paid for it.
When the doctor asked the patient about it, the patient said “Oh yeah, I was going to ask you about that.” The point is: If you don’t ask, many times you don’t get.
Most doctors are uncomfortable “selling” – i.e. dealing with money, explanations and so on. They project this discomfort onto their patients. They’ve got it all worked out how the treatment plan and its price would upset a patient when in fact most of the time it wouldn’t; and the worst thing that happens is the patient says no or puts it off.
Now, of course, there’s going to be that one person who gets upset/nasty. Guess what – that’s life.
If you have 20 patients in a day and 19 are happy, appreciative and so on but one is nasty – who is your staff still talking about hours later? Who are you talking to your spouse about that night? The nasty one right? It’s strange, but we ignore the 19 people (95%) who were happy and focus on that one nasty guy or gal. Why? I don’t know; but it happens. Instead, why not focus on the 95%?
If you were making it possible for babies and kittens in the desert to get water, most people would think you were a wonderful person – a real humanitarian. Inevitably however, there would be one (or two) people who would find this offensive. It really doesn’t matter what you’re doing; there will always be a naysayer.
So, my advice, don’t hold back. Tell people what they need when they need it. If someone finds this so offensive, then maybe they don’t belong in your office. You have to decide if: a) you’re there to help people and do good dentistry or b) you’re there to get along with everyone and never have anybody be upset with you.
In the end you’ll find that only a miniscule percentage of people find a caring and honest dentist to be offensive or problematic. OK. They don’t have to be your patients anyway. They have plenty of options when it comes to choosing a dentist! In any event, if you have a situation like this and decide to NOT treat a patient, always err on the safe side and handle things according your state Dental Practice Act (you can also put in a quick call to your malpractice carrier and they are usually happy to help with advice).
Don’t let one bad apple spoil your willingness to communicate with the majority of people (patients) who appreciate you and what you do!
I hope this helps. If you have any questions, please feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or call at (800) 640-1140 (toll-free).
And if you really want to master case acceptance – come to the MGE Communication & Sales Seminars.