9 Steps to Increase Case Acceptance at Your Practice
Without a doubt, the case acceptance rates at your dental practice are the most important metric when it comes to production performance. Prominent literature on the subject matter is littered with techniques on how persuasive you should be, how impressive or professional you should seem, the kind of financial options you must provide, and how to offer quick fixes that maximize case acceptance per patient.
While some techniques do work, we have compiled for you a more principled approach to case acceptance. These 9 steps and the principles listed within them, will set you up for production success. However, before you proceed the one and only rule of the 9 step approach, is to never bypass the order of the steps mentioned below. With that said, let’s get started with Step 1: Knowing your patient.
1. Know Your Patient
A major factor in case acceptance depends on how a patient makes purchase decisions. The deciding factor for successful case acceptance might not always be about the need for treatment or the quality of your presentations. This is why it is vital to know your patients and understand what factors influence the choices they make.
For this to occur, you need patience, structure, and consistency. Patience to understand your patient, a structured interaction to help identify their preferences, biases, and insecurities followed with consistent effort to refine your patient interactions.
Understanding your patient’s past decisions on dental treatments is certainly important. However, before you have that conversation, it is important to understand their viewpoints regarding health. Learning how your patient quit smoking or started exercise can enable you to help them make ‘present’ and ‘future’ dental decisions.
Find out what your patients want to attain and what they wish to avoid? The first step to help them identify what they want is by helping them articulate what they don’t want. This sets a strong platform from where you can outline their expectations and address their misgivings. For instance, a conversation regarding a patient’s concern about losing teeth could move into a discussion on the solutions to maintain healthy teeth.
The decisions patients make are a reflection of their values. Spending time to get to know their values, aspirations, and limitations helps you present tailored treatment plans and increase case acceptance.
2. Diagnose Thoroughly
This is an obvious second step leading up to case acceptance. Before you recommend a comprehensive long-term plan, you have to know the existing oral-health conditions of your patient.
A thoughtful, methodical, and careful diagnosis, gives you the confidence to back the long-term vision for your patient’s oral health. It’s understandable why dentists feel skeptical about presenting long-term plans. They worry that this might drive patients away from their practice as they believe that most patients are interested in short-term fixes. Dentists should have faith in their diagnostic capabilities and the sincerity of their commitment towards patients.
Irrespective of what a patient decides, maintaining high standards of diagnosis is bound to favor the dentist. Formulating skillful recommendations based on a comprehensive diagnosis conveys your sincerity like nothing else.
The best way to formulate recommendations is to get your team involved. Analyze charts, x-rays, study models, treatment history, pictures, and everything that you know about the patient. Compare the results with your knowledge of the best procedures and the latest solutions in dentistry. While presenting your long-term plans, you let the patient know that your recommendations are based on a comprehensive study and not guesswork. Additionally, you also ensure that you don’t eliminate dental care options for them in the future, by pushing for quick fixes.
Such an approach fosters trust and credibility regarding your conduct and professionalism. Success loves preparation, and your preparation at this stage pays off during plan presentations.
3. Agree upon Outcomes
An important factor during consultations is to avoid an immediate leap into the details of treatment procedures. Before gaining consent on procedures, it is extremely important to agree on the outcomes first. This helps you and your patients fine-tune expectations and increase the chances of case acceptance.
For instance, let’s consider an outcome where a patient wants to maintain their natural teeth for the rest of their lives. The patient also wants to take advantage of insurance benefits from an employer, without compromising comfort and time.
Establishing such an outcome, helps you develop a plan for predictable restorations and choice of materials. It also lets you formulate an approach that best utilizes their insurance benefits while providing a comfortable dental solution and spending the least amount of time on treatments and visitations. Establishing outcomes is a vital step that should always precede plan presentations.
4. Treatment Plan Presentation
Treatment plan presentations should start after you’ve agreed on the outcomes and decided on a general direction for treatments. Always keep in mind that a typical patient remembers less than half of what their doctor tells them about procedures. This is why the quality of your communication matters when presenting treatment plans.
An effective approach would be to express the treatment plan in layman terms which can be better understood by the patient. For instance, carious lesions can be better referred to as cavities, periapical radiolucencies in a patient x-ray can be better described as a puss pocket in their bones and periodontal treatment becomes a gum disease. Try to avoid technical terms whenever you can and ensure that your communication invites participation.
Jargon-free communication holds sway because people don’t normally acknowledge something that they don’t understand. This holds true with treatment plans where patients hesitate to ask questions. The last thing you want is for your patients to zone out and drag their feet during case acceptance, especially once they learn about the price of treatments.
5. Financial Plan Presentation
Discussing price is the most sensitive step in the 9 steps of case acceptance listed here. Patients don’t enjoy surprises, especially when it comes to payments. It’s highly likely that prices were a hot topic of discussion during the earlier stage when you agreed on outcomes. Don’t hesitate and be ready with an honest answer before discussing payment plans and insurance coverage.
For financial presentations, it is recommended that the dentist provide an overview on treatment costs. A key reason for this approach is because patients trust doctors. If a dentist, who is an expert in the eyes of a patient, can’t honestly provide clarity on treatment costs, then they are more likely to get dissuaded.
Let’s face it, dental services can get expensive. Hence, it is important that the dentist outlines the benefits that justify the costs of treatment. This doesn’t have to be a detailed presentation on the breakdown of costs or insurance benefits. The finer details can be handled by the team of treatment and insurance coordinators. The earlier you identify your patient’s concerns, the better prepared you are with options.
6. Be Prepared With Payment Options
Step 6 of the case acceptance cycle is to be ready with options for your patients. This includes both treatment and payment options. The efforts you took in the previous steps start paying off at this stage. You have taken the time to understand your patient’s mindset and needs, diagnosed and co-discovered a vision for treatment, have established and agreed on the outcomes, and established a roadmap for treatments, payments, and insurance coverage.
After plan presentations, it’s natural for patients to ask for options. From payments to timelines and the materials used in procedures, there are multiple ways to approach treatments. With that said, while discussing options, it is important to consider the outcomes to which you had agreed earlier with your patients. For instance, if a patient wants their teeth to be restored over 7 years to utilize insurance benefits, this might affect the patient’s desire to minimize surprises. Patients will make changes to the agreed outcomes as long as both of you can agree with the new ones.
Providing multiple payment options can be a real game-changer when it comes to case acceptance. Out-of-pocket payments contribute close to 40% of the revenue generated in the dental industry. As this is a major revenue channel for practice, providing payment options is a definite must-have. Multiple financial arrangements and payment plan options include third-party financing, massive discounts on upfront payments, and in-house lending options. Practices that offer payment options consequently increase the percentage participation of patients who qualify for and accept the treatment plans that are presented to them.
7. The Power of Choice
The next step as you move forward to close your treatment plan is to encourage your patients to make a choice. When patients feel that they lead the direction of their treatments, the more invested they will be to make a decision that benefits their oral well-being. When faced with a difficult choice, your recommendations, guidance, and encouragement will play a crucial role. It is important to help your patients realize that not making a choice is also a choice. You must convey that it’s alright to reject your plan and that you are there to support them while encouraging them to have some plan of action in place.
8. Set-up Timelines
Ensure that you chalk out a timeline with your patients, to implement the treatment plan. Timelines generally end up being flexible but it is always important to establish one upfront. Generally, patient enthusiasm reduces after the first couple of appointments. This is why a timeline with scheduled appointments to phase out treatments is vital and should factor in patient challenges in terms of finances, time, and comfort.
9. Monitor and Engage
It’s natural for your patients to lose sight of the decisions they have made. Moving forward depends on your ability to modify and adapt your plans while keeping your patients motivated enough to follow through with their commitments.
Once you’ve understood your patient, conducted a thorough diagnosis, agreed-upon outcomes, presented plan options, encouraged your patients to make the right choice and established timelines, be prepared to repeat the cycle all over again.
Learn from your experience and continue to refine the 9 step approach to guarantee a steady and consistent uptick in your case acceptance rates.