Have you ever wondered what the cost is of telling a patient at every hygiene appointment about a crown that needs to be completed and finally after their fourth time hearing about the treatment they accept? We can’t put an exact number on this, but I feel very certain that you are very likely delivering the crown for free by the fourth time that you talk about it. If we monetized the amount of time spent by you, the hygienists and the administrator or treatment coordinator, I think you would be shocked. Your goal should be that a measured 80% of your treatment is completed after the first time it is diagnosed.
Achieving this level of success is a full team effort and consists of the following steps:
- At your daily planning meeting, discuss any outstanding diagnosed work or “observes or watches” from the patients’ last appointments. Everyone in the office should know in advance what you are thinking regarding the treatment so that they can support you with it.
- Intra oral pictures of the area should be taken or if they have been taken previously, they can be up on the screen when the patient enters the room. A patient has no idea what you see in their mouths, they only know if it hurts or not. An intra oral picture will allow them to see their mouths as you do. This is actually the best educational tool out there, whether it is showing the patient calculus or the need for major restorative dentistry.
- If the dental work has been diagnosed previously, the hygienist can use time while she is scaling to help educate the patient as to why the dentistry is necessary in that area. Not all hygienists know the benefits and consequences of all the work that you provide, take your time to educate your entire team to ensure that they can comfortably educate patients about the dentistry that you diagnose.
- When you speak with your patients about treatment that you have diagnosed ensure that you sit them upright. Discussing treatment with patients while they are supine it is very likely that they will be unable to take in the facts, as many patients are uncomfortable and feel vulnerable in this position. Also, slide your chair forward so that you are “knee to knee” with the patients and not sitting at their shoulder, with all of your PPE you want to ensure that you connect with the patient. Sitting “knee to knee” with the patient will ensure that they are physically comfortable looking at you and not craning their neck on an uncomfortable angle.
- Your assistant has a part to play in treatment acceptance as well. Once you step out of the room your assistant can ask if the patient has any questions. Very often patients can be shy about asking the dentist any questions, but they will be more comfortable asking the assistant, ensure that she is able to support your diagnosis as well with the patient.
- One of the phrases that makes me cringe in any office is “let’s see what your insurance coverage is.” This is providing the patient with a very mixed message; most patients will actually think they hear “if I don’t have coverage then I don’t need this treatment.” Your message is undermining the need for the treatment. We know that this isn’t your intention, you are trying to be considerate of your patients finances but you are minimizing the need for the treatment.
- Your team member who has been delegated the task of following up with patients should have training to be effective with her skills. A simple phone call or email asking them if they are going to book a crown is no longer sufficient as follow up. This administrator needs to be educated in the benefits of proceeding with the treatment as well as the consequences of not proceeding, be knowledgeable in the payment options available at your office and be able to explain any insurance questions the patient may have.
As you can see treatment acceptance is a full team responsibility. Stop losing money by delivering the same diagnosis several times to your patient, have it accepted the first time moving forward.