If you think it about most patients will mirror the behaviour that you and your team display in your practice. We teach our patients behaviour about time management, financial management and overall respect of a professional environment.
If we were first to look at examples of teaching our patients about time management, we should address these areas first and foremost in our offices:
- By pre-appointing all patients for their future hygiene appointments and saying to them, “let’s get it booked and when it gets closer you can cancel if it doesn’t work for you” is one of the biggest mistakes an office can make. This is great at making your schedule appear to be full down the road, but you are giving patients permission to cancel which will leave your team scrambling with last minute openings. A better choice would be for patients who don’t know their future schedule to use your software effectively and contact them closer to their due date so that an appointment can be scheduled that will definitely work with their schedule. This will decrease many of the last-minute cancellations that you have in your schedule.
- Running behind in a dental office may sometimes happen when a procedure doesn’t go as planned, if it does happen it should be on an irregular basis not a daily occurrence. If patients are regularly being seen late then you likely aren’t respecting your patients time and you are teaching them to not respect your time either. This means they could start arriving late as they know their actual appointment time means nothing or worst-case scenario, they will just no show. If you are running behind, then please apologize to the patient and perhaps provide them with a coffee gift card as an apology. If you are finding that you are always running late, you may want to look at the time you are providing yourself for the procedures that you are diagnosing.
- Changing patient appointment times on a regular basis whether it is to tighten up your schedule or a provider/schedule change should not be occurring. By changing appointment times even by ten minutes on a regular basis will teach your patients that their appointment times are fluid. Patients will begin to not respect their appointment times which will create havoc in your schedule.
As for teaching our patients financial management there are some rules that will help your cash flow and treatment acceptance:
- Don’t pre-judge a patient’s ability to pay for treatment when providing them with choices of optimal treatment. The patients who seem the most likely to go ahead with treatment may not value the treatment as something they wish to spend money on. Conversely, patients who look like they couldn’t afford a higher end treatment should still be fully presented with the optimal treatment in the same manner as all other patients. You may sometimes be surprised at where patient’s priorities lay. Or they may not have the funds themselves, but they may have a family member or a friend who is willing to pay for this treatment if the patient values it.
- Avoid scheduling patients who have an unpaid balance if they have not made a financial arrangement with the office. Of course, emergency treatment should still be provided but taking the step to complete further treatment should be put on hold until an account has been taken care of. If we teach patients that they can come to the office without be responsible financially then they will continue disrespecting the office cash flow.
- The person in your office who is handling financial discussions needs to have confidence around finances. Whether they have confidence from their own financial circumstances, or they learn confidence from coaching they need to portray confidence when speaking with patients. If a patient feels that the person presenting treatment doesn’t see the value or feels that the fees are too much, then there is less of a likelihood that treatment will be accepted. Having a financially confident Treatment Coordinator will help teach the patients to feel confident about their own treatment choices.
The saying “You get what you give” applies every day to patient care, teaching your patients how to treat you will make every day feel easier in your dream practice.