Breaking down Treatment Coordination into four sections, as this series of articles is doing, will allow your team to see if there are any spots where there may be a weak link in attaining the metric of 80% acceptance the first-time treatment has been diagnosed.
In this section, the discussion will centre around what happens between the time that the patient leaves the treatment room where a diagnosis was delivered and when the patient leaves the office.
You will want to ensure that your entire team speaks about treatment in the same way. It is very difficult for a patient to understand the treatment and see value if everyone isn’t speaking the same. To overcome this obstacle, you will want to have a team meeting and decide on verbiage that is comfortable for all. You can come up with a few different analogies for treatment that your team can use to help the patients feel comfortable. Your entire team should be able to explain the treatment effectively to any patient.
Whether you have a dedicated Treatment Coordinator or not, your acceptance rate will be higher if your team use some of the following tools prior to your patient leaving the office:
- Being able to speak with the patient in a manner that is meaningful to them. Team being able to intuitively know a patient’s preferred communication style.
- The difference between using open-ended versus closed-ended questions
- Being able to knowledgably speak about the benefits of proceeding with any treatment as well as the consequences of not proceeding with the treatment.
- The admin team should have access to visual aids (and know how to speak about them) which would include intra oral photos, radiographs and models.
Whoever is speaking with the patient after the patient leaves the treatment room needs to feel very comfortable having financial discussions with patients. If the team member discussing the treatment with the patient doesn’t see the financial value in the treatment, this will come across in their discussion. Being able to empathize but still show value will be the key to acceptance in our current financial times.
The area where many administrators get caught up at this point is when speaking about insurance coverage. As much as offices don’t want to have patients who are dependent on insurance coverage, we know that patients do rely on their coverage in most income brackets for at least part of the treatment. This is where confidence is most important, giving the patient as much information as possible in advance as well as letting the patient know that there may be options for short payments plans. This can relieve some of the uncertainty around patients booking a treatment. Allowing Treatment Coordinators to have the ability and some freedom to work through financial options with patients that will fit their household budgets will improve acceptance as well.
Whether patients book prior to leaving the office or want to wait to make their decisions pending home discussions or insurance outcomes, the office has to realize that we have provided the patient with a lot of information that they may not have been expecting at this appointment. As everybody knows it is very easy to forget what someone has said once you walk out the door. You will want to ensure that patients leave the office (or send home in an email): a copy of their treatment plan, an estimate for services and hopefully access to a video of their provider describing the treatment that they can watch at home or show others who may need to support the decision as well.
The time spent between the treatment chair and the patient leaving the office is crucial to the success of treatment acceptance. For patients who leave the office without the above discussions occurring there will be a lower level of acceptance at the first diagnosis, instead of 80% acceptance you can expect closer to 65% acceptance. Training your entire team is the answer to better treatment acceptance.
The next installment in this series will be addressing methods of follow-up with patients who don’t book prior to leaving the office on the date that treatment is diagnosed.