Chapter 17: Presenting Treatment Plans for Maximum Patient Acceptance
You can plan all the treatments you want to, but if the patient does not accept your proposal, you cannot create that revenue. If you pay too little attention to your patients’ needs, your acceptance rate can go as low as 35%. To get the ideal acceptance rate of 80% to 90%, you and your staff need to work smarter to encourage patients to follow through with the treatments they want or need.
Why Would a Patient Not Accept Treatment?
It may seem obvious that a patient who comes to you for treatment would then accept the treatment and move forward with it. However, the reality is that rarely happens 100% of the time in any dental clinic, much less one that is poorly run. As you gain experience in dentistry, you are likely to see patients refusing the treatments you offer for common reasons like:
- They need more information.
- They do not understand how the treatment will benefit them.
- They need reassurance from you that this is the right course of action.
- They are concerned that the treatment will not fit with their lifestyle.
Although these are the most common barriers to patient acceptance, they are also fairly easy to overcome. With a cohesive team working to make sure each patient’s need is addressed, you can increase the acceptance rate dramatically.
Your Part As the Dentist
You role as a dentist in promoting patient acceptance of treatments is to diagnose accurately, be honest about the procedures needed to address oral health problems, and show and tell the patient why the procedures are necessary. You may be aware that a certain patient has limited financial resources. In such cases, you might hesitate to tell them that they need an expensive or extended treatment. However, it is your job to be honest and let them decide. While it is the patient’s responsibility to accept or reject treatment, you can reassure them once they make the decision to accept. This reduces the risk that the patient will cancel the treatment after further thought.
Going over the results of the exam, x-rays and any other tests helps your patient see and understand what is happening in their mouth and why the dental procedure you suggest is necessary or desirable. You also may need to comfort patients who are distressed about their oral health and reassure them that the treatment will help them overcome their dental problems.
The Role of Your Front Office Staff
Not only should your receptionist offer patients a warm greeting when they call or arrive at the office, but they should also pave the way for patient acceptance of the treatment plan. When they ask about costs, it is fine to give an estimate. This prepares patients and allows them to consider how they will pay for treatment. You also need to let patients know that each patient’s procedure is different, and this is only an estimate for the usual cost of such a treatment. Remind your staff to offer your financing options if the patient hesitates. It is also imperative to get the patient’s contact and insurance information on the first contact.
The Role of Your Financial and Treatment Coordinator
Whether you have hired a dedicated treatment coordinator, assigned that job to one or two of your staff or you do it yourself, someone at your practice must be in charge of creating a detailed treatment plan fo the patient and their insurance company. Be as accurate as possible, giving estimates that include number and duration of visits, cost for each visit and total cost for the treatment plan. The financial and treatment coordinator(s) also need to verify the patient’s eligibility for the treatment plan under their insurance before making up this detailed explanation of the treatment plan.
How Can Your Dental Hygienist Help?
Your dental hygienist, who is often the first person in the office who works on their teeth, can make the patient feel more comfortable with your practice in general. They play a large part in patient education as well. They can sometimes even identify problems that need to be addressed by the dentist. When they do, they can let the patient know to prepare them for the idea that they may need further treatment.
The Role of Technology
If you have adequate computer and software technology, you can connect with the patient’s insurance company to verify eligibility for the treatment. Real-time approval is ideal, and you can accomplish that if your computer system and internet connection are sound.