Controversial statement warning: We (dentists) are unwittingly ruining our profession.
Yeah…you read that right.
There’s something that most of us do (it’s so common, you may have even done it today), that:
- Negatively affects rapport with patients; and potentially makes them lose trust in us,
- Creates cancellations and no-shows in our schedule,
- Is devastating to patient retention and
- Turns our patients into “shoppers.”
It also lowers collections, sabotages our hygiene department, and for good measure, reduces our new patient referrals.
And what is it that we’re doing that’s causing all this havoc? Well, it has to do with HOW most dentists handle treatment plan presentations.
Say you’re presenting treatment to a patient that needs five crowns. The patient listens to what you have to say, then says: “Sounds good, Doc. I’ll get those done, but how about we do one or two this year, one or two the next and so on to maximize my insurance benefits.”
Or they might say:
“Let’s just do what insurance will cover,” with no thought to the entire treatment plan, which translates into one or two crowns depending on their insurance.
The problem lies in what most of us do next. The usual response from the average dentist?
“Sure, sounds good.” You might think, “At least we’re starting their treatment and there’s some production on the schedule. After all that’s better than nothing right?”
All of this seems harmless enough, doesn’t it? And it happens a lot. The consequences of handling things this way, are far reaching and what we don’t immediately see.
You’re losing the patient’s confidence.
You started the conversation by telling the patient they needed five crowns. And they did. When you explained this, they balked at the fee and wanted to run their treatment plan based on insurance coverage. You agreed and decided to do two crowns now. You’ve at the same time agreed to put the remaining three crowns “on hold” til next year or beyond. What are you in effect telling the patient? Well, those three crowns you’re not doing now really weren’t all that important. Well, don’t be surprised if they wonder how important it is to do the two that they have agreed to do now.
Taking this a step further – your more cynical person/patient might think “Wow, if I hadn’t said anything, I’d be out $3,000+ for those additional three crowns I didn’t need.” It may make them wonder about your motivation. Ultimately, in an effort to not seem “money-driven” and just go with the flow and be “nice,” you end up looking money driven! So, what do they do? They might shop!
Something to know? We estimate that at least 40% of negative dental reviews have to do with treatment plan presentations and the resulting lack of understanding – especially how it relates to fees. And with most of us doing things as above – this is not surprising.
All in all, this scenario sows distrust. And it’s not a large leap to realize how this might increase cancellations and no-shows.
You’re killing your collections.
This is obvious as you’re doing less needed dental treatment. And the silly point here is that in many cases, an additional 10 minutes of discussion could result in the patient accepting their full treatment plan. So, instead of a win-win (patient gets treatment they need and you get to do the work they both need and you enjoy), we’re instead doing what insurance covers.
You’re reducing new patient referrals.
Take a look at who your best referral sources are. Hint: it’s not the patient who says that if you give them a “deal” they will send in all their friends – because, you know, they know a lot of people. Funny how those people never end up referring…No, patients who tend to be the best referral sources are the ones who have done their full treatment plans and are happy with your office. So, you can see, if you’re “phasing” treatment as above you’re reducing potential referrals!
And lastly, as I mentioned above, we’re not really pushing the issue because we don’t want to look “bad.”
We don’t want our patients thinking that we are “after their money.” This backfires on us when we immediately agree to break down treatment and makes us look bad – like we are only interested in what the patient can pay! It also leads to those “See? Dentists are just after money!” comments you find in online reviews.
This isn’t helping our profession, and we need to make a change. But why aren’t we? In most cases it’s because the average dentist, when confronted by the: “I only want to do what insurance covers,” objection simply doesn’t know what do. They freeze and move ahead with the easiest option – which is…doing what insurance covers.
So, what should you do?
Well, to start, I’ll say this: Just be straight with your patients; sit down in front of them and tell them what they need and don’t let them just choose what they want off the menu as if you were a fast food restaurant. Take the time to explain and help the patient understand why it is that they need those five crowns. We can’t put this responsibility only in the patient’s lap. They haven’t gone to dental school and don’t know everything we know. It’s our responsibility, as doctors, to make sure that our patients leave the office understanding what it is that they need and the importance of it.
If you’re worried that you’re too busy to spend the extra time going over treatment plans with patients, let me tell you that it’s absolutely worth it for sizeable treatment plans. This time needs to be built in the schedule. If you can increase the value of your average treatment plan by getting patients to accept more comprehensive care, your productivity will improve, even if you’re seeing fewer patients every day – and you’ll be helping patients get all the treatment they need.
These treatment presentations don’t necessarily need to take a long time, though. Being able to do this comes down to knowing how to be a good communicator and how to connect with patients and build understanding quickly. Effective communication goes a long way!
We offer a couple of free one-day seminars that go over this subject: The Real Solution to Cancellations & No-Shows Seminar and The Effective Case Acceptance Seminar, but ultimately if you want to master this subject you need to attend the The MGE Communication & Sales Seminars. This is a series of three seminars held at our Florida office that give you all the tools you need to dramatically increase acceptance (and payment) for comprehensive treatment plans. The results from these seminars are incredible. Chances are you know someone who’s attended them. You can always contact us at (800) 640-1140 and we can put you in touch with a few dentists near you that have done the seminars and you can hear about the results for yourself.
Tips you can use immediately
In the meantime, I don’t want to leave you with nothing, so here are a few tips you can put to use immediately:
- When talking to your patients, don’t use big words they don’t understand. For example, you wouldn’t want to say, “Oh, you have a periapical radiolucency at the apex of number 29. You need a root canal, a prefabricated post-and-core crown.” You lost them at periapical. We’re talking to people who aren’t dentists, so don’t talk to them like a dentist. When you talk to them like a dentist, they don’t understand, and they don’t want to come back to get their dentistry done. Using big dental terms won’t get the patient the help they need.
- Make sure you take the time and are not afraid to tell the patient what they need. When the patient gives you their objections, don’t give up. Keep talking to them and answer their questions so they fully understand the treatment plan.Here’s one of my secrets: Instead of talking at the patient, talk with the patient. Ask questions such as:“How do you feel about crowns?”
“What do you know about crowns?”
“Do you know anybody who had crowns?”
“How do you feel about your teeth? Do you want to keep them?”
“Do you believe your teeth could help you live a long time?”Ask questions that will get them to talk to you. This is going to increase your communication with them.
- You can also get some immediate training on the subject through our online training platform DDSSuccess.com. We cover a ton of information on case presentation and acceptance for you and your entire team. It’s only $289 a month for you and up to 10 staff and you can cancel any time.
I hope this helps. You know, it’s funny. When we were in dental school, most of us had no idea that case acceptance was even a remote issue we’d have to deal with when we went into practice. Well it is. Whether we like it or not So, with that in mind – let’s all be great at it and create happier and potentially healthier patients!
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