Jeffrey Blumberg Chief Operating Officer at MGE Management ExpertsPoor treatment acceptance can create a lot of problems in a dental practice.

For the dentist, it means performing less of the type of dental treatment that they enjoy. It’s more single tooth dentistry in lieu of quadrant dentistry, especially if patients aren’t accepting comprehensive treatment.

From an overall practice perspective, it has an adverse effect on office productivity and profitability.

And most importantly, the greatest problem with poor treatment acceptance is that patients aren’t receiving all the treatment that they need; rendering them a less healthy (at least from a dental perspective) patient.

And those are just a few of the reasons MGE offers extensive training on the subject of  improving treatment acceptance. And we’ve done our best to make this information accessible to one and all: There’s our free Effective Case Acceptance Workshop,” delivered throughout the US and Canada, hours of courses on DDS Success! MGE’s online training platform (www.dddssuccess.com) and for those who wish to master the subject, there’s the three MGE Communication and Sales Seminars for the Professional delivered at our St. Petersburg, FL headquarters.

So, the upshot is, if you really want to know what you’re doing – you need to get trained on the subject! But that said; is there something (or somethings) you could start doing  right now, today, that can positively impact your treatment acceptance percentage?

As a matter of fact, yes, there is. And that’s the subject of this post.

So, with that said, let’s have a look at three simple things you could implement immediately to boost your treatment plan acceptance.

1. Make sure you have enough time to present treatment effectively.

Not enough time can be a major source of treatment acceptance failure.

And this isn’t just a “dental” thing. Even the best “salesperson” in the world couldn’t “close” a “big” deal without adequate time to complete the sales process.

As an example, let’s look at a common scenario:

A dentist is seeing a new patient for an initial exam. Maybe this doctor does this out of of hygiene (with the hygienist doing the x-rays, periodontal probing, etc., with them popping in for the exam), or maybe they see the new patient themselves. Doesn’t really matter, there’s no “wrong” or “right” way. It’s up to the doctor. In any event, the doctor will end up with about 20 minutes in most cases to do an exam and explain treatment.

Let’s say this is a $5,000 treatment plan. Not huge – but not small either. It’s four crowns and a few composites.  After the exam, the doctor has maybe that last ten minutes to start explaining the patient’s treatment plan. But….they are due in the next operatory in fifteen minutes to start a root canal.

So, they tell the patient what they need, and when the patient asks about cost, they are sent up front (or a Treatment Coordinator is brought in the room) to cover financials.

The doctor finished the root canal and asks what happened with the patient. Once in a while they hear that the patient accepted all treatment as recommended – happy day! Usually, the patient accepted the two crowns their insurance will cover – or nothing at all. They, “have to think about it,” “talk with their spouse,” and so on.

The doctor ends up doing two crowns and having the same conversation about the remaining treatment next year and some of which may have changed due to continued decay. Or if the patient didn’t accept anything – they are now on the “Incomplete Treatment List,” which despite its promise, any Schedule Coordinator will tell you is a terrible source for filling openings in the schedule productively.

So, what happened here? There was not enough time.

At MGE we have a “rule” we share with our clients, which is: Don’t start a treatment plan presentation if you don’t have time to present it effectively from start to finish.

We may not view four crowns as a large treatment plan, but let’s look at the facts. It costs more or less around $4,000.  That’s not a small amount of money to many people. And while they may have $1,000 of insurance participation – that’s still $3,000 out of pocket.  When was the last time you spent thousands of dollars after a five minute explanation?

On top of that, five minutes is not enough time for the patient to get comfortable enough to share what’s really on their mind. Maybe they are afraid of needles and drills. Who knows? They tell you or your Treatment Coordinator, “I’ll think about it,” but maybe something else is on their mind.

As a rule, treatment presentations should be done under several prevailing conditions:

  1. The doctor should be able to put all their attention on the patient. They shouldn’t have to leave mid presentation or need to be out of the room in two minutes for the next patient.
  2. The doctor should have adequate time to answer all the patient’s questions and address any of their concerns.
  3. There should be no interruptions (if possible) and neither the patient or doctor should feel “rushed.”

So, what could this doctor we referred to earlier that had ten minutes to present prior to leaving for the next patient have done instead?

Well, let’s have a look:

Again, doctor sees new patient, does a comprehensive exam and x-rays. Patient needs about $5,000 worth of treatment.

In this case, the doctor realizes they need about 25-30 minutes to present this treatment and they don’t have that time to right now.  Conversely and something that should also be considered is how much time the patient has; You may have the time to present now, but they don’t.

So, what does this doctor do? They bring the patient back for a consultation appointment. Consultations shouldn’t only be reserved for massive treatment plans. Although, I wouldn’t do a consultation for a few composites, I would do it for a treatment plan that was $2-3,000 or up. Up to you to decide how to roll this out in your office.

When should you schedule consultations? I would do them first thing in the morning and first thing after lunch.

If you do them first thing in the morning, and you have a situation where your big morning procedure cancels, well, there’s always a chance that one or two patients you’re doing a consultation on can stay and start their procedure, so you can save your production for that day.

It also allows you to see a patient without being “in the middle” with other patients or procedures.

With the after-lunch slot, if you happen to work through your lunch, you can always grab a sandwich real quick and do your treatment presentation without feeling hurried or pressured.

And obviously, if you have the time and the patient has the time to present the same day as the examination – by all means – do it now!

A last little tip on this: If you’re going to bring a patient back for a consult, don’t half-way explain the treatment during the exam and then tell them to come back for a consultation. I leave this up to you, but let’s just frame this for a moment. You tell a patient, “You need a few crowns and a root canal, etc. and I want you to come back for a consultation.” The patient is going to walk out thinking, “I need these crowns and root canals,” “I hear those are expensive,” or “I’ve heard that root canals can hurt,” and so on. Chances are they won’t show for the consultation.

Instead, you could say something along the lines of: You want to see them back for a consultation – it’s a free appointment, it takes a half hour (or however long you want to schedule) and during that appointment you’re going to spend all the time that you need to really answer all of their questions and make sure they fully understand what came up during the examination. Again, this is all up to you as to how you want to handle it, but that’s my two cents. And this brings us to the next point:

2. During your treatment presentation, make sure the patient understands their treatment plan.

In January of 2007, an article appeared in the New York Times written by Ms. Jane Brody. The article was titled: The Importance of Knowing What the Doctor is Talking About.

It was revealing and a bit scary at the same time.  To explain, here’s how it starts out:

“How often have you left a doctor’s office wondering just what you were told about your health, or what exactly you were supposed to be doing to relieve or prevent a problem? If you are a typical patient, you remember less than half of what your doctor tries to explain.” ─ The Importance of Knowing What the Doctor is Talking About, Jane Brody, New York Times, January 2007

Read that bold part (I added the emphases) again.

“If you are a typical patient, you remember less than half of what your doctor tries to explain.”

Bring this home into your office. That means that every patient that comes in today will remembers less than half of what they heard.

When you tell a patient that they need “XYZ” treatment plan, what part are they definitely going to remember? The fee. Because we all have subjective understanding of money. But they’re not going to necessarily understand all of the treatment unless you make sure that they really understand it.

And what’s the definition of understanding? “To grasp the meaning or significance or use of something.” If someone doesn’t seem to grasp what is important and what is not, they won’t be able to process a proper decision in the matter. And this is why you have patients tell you “Oh, I can’t to do those four root canals and six crowns right now because I’m going on a cruise.” Yeah, we’ve all heard those, but what’s going on? They just don’t understand WHY they need the treatment plan. They don’t understand it’s importance and can’t associate the importance with the fee.

A patient not only has to understand what the treatment plan is, and how it’s going to be done.  They also must know WHY. Why is this important to do? Why do we need to do this root canal right now? If we don’t, what are the potential consequences? And really only the doctor can answer those questions.

And here you see why having enough time is a big deal.

A final tip: don’t use clinical terminology when presenting. In most cases, your patients aren’t going to know these terms and you’ll see it. You’ll mention a periapical radiolucency and you’ll see that “glazed-eye look” in your patient for a moment; What you said went completely over their head. You might even ask them if they have any questions, but what are they going to say? “No.”

I’ve always wondered why don’t people ask questions?  And I don’t have a definitive answer. What I could tell you is in a lot of cases why people don’t ask questions, if I had to guess, is because they think it will make them look stupid. If you’re using a term, they think that you expect them to know it. So, don’t use terms that they aren’t used to hearing. Use words that are accessible to your patients so they understand what’s going on.

Now, despite having adequate time and explaining everything, you still may run into barriers, objections and so on that you can’t handle. This is where the training I referred to earlier comes into play. And you have a number of options: our free Effective Case Acceptance Workshop,” delivered throughout the US and Canada, check out DDS Success! MGE’s online training platform (www.dddssuccess.com) or go all in and come to the MGE Communication and Sales Seminars.

All right let’s finish off strong with point number 3:

3. The doctor should discuss the fee with the patient.

Survey your staff and ask them who (in your office) a patient is most likely to listen to. Invariably they will tell you: the doctor.

Dental Receptionist - The MGE Management Experts BlogIt’s how things are.

So, using that data, it makes sense that the doctor should discuss the fee for treatment with patients.

I also understand that,  people have different thoughts on this subject. And money can almost bring about a “personality change” in people. I’m sure if you were to ask your Financial Coordinator, they could tell you stories about patients that went from being nice and pleasant to a virtual ogre at the mention of the fee. I get it. Despite this, the person that the patient is most likely to listen to is you, the doctor.

So, tell them how much it costs. Now, do you have to tell them to the penny? No. My dentist might give me a general amount; she’ll tell me I need an onlay and that it will cost about $1100. I’ll work out the specifics with her Treatment Coordinator, but at least she’s giving me the fee. Try it and see how it works for you. I can tell you statistically that it can make a WORLD of difference.

So, there you have it. Those are the three points that if you were to apply right now, will help you improve your treatment acceptance.

Give it a shot and let me know how it goes. And again – if you want more information on this subject, check out our free Effective Case Acceptance Workshop,” our online platform DDS Success! Or the MGE Communication and Sales Seminars.


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