Without a doubt, the case acceptance rates at your dental practice are the most important metric for 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 never to bypass the order of the steps mentioned below.
The case acceptance rate indicates how much production the practice leaves on the table. It also specifies how well the examinations are done and how the staff communicates the proposed treatments to patients.
With that said, let’s get started with Step 1: Knowing 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 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 exercising can enable you to help them make ‘present’ and ‘future’ dental decisions.
Find out what your patients want and what they wish to avoid. The first step to help them identify what they want is to help them articulate what they don’t want.
This sets a strong platform 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 know their values, aspirations, and limitations helps you present tailored treatment plans and increase case acceptance.
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 most patients are interested in short-term fixes.
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.
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.
An important factor during consultations is to avoid an immediate leap into the details of treatment procedures. Before gaining consent on procedures, it is 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 time on treatments and visitations.
Establishing outcomes is a vital step that should always precede plan presentations.
Treatment plan presentations should start after you’ve agreed on the outcomes and decided on a general treatment direction.
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's terms which the patient can better understand.
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.
Avoid technical terms whenever you can, and ensure that your communication invites participation.
Jargon-free communication holds sway because people don’t usually acknowledge something 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.
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.
For financial presentations, it is recommended that the dentist provide an overview of treatment costs.
A key reason for this approach is that 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, dentists need to outline the benefits that justify treatment costs.
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.
Step 6 of the case acceptance cycle is to be ready with patient options. This includes both treatment and payment options.
Your efforts 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, 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.
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 restored over 7 years to utilize insurance benefits, this might affect their desire to minimize surprises.
Patients will change the agreed outcomes as long as they agree with the new ones.
Providing multiple payment options can be a real game-changer regarding 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 must-have.
Multiple financial arrangements and payment plan options include:
Practices that offer payment options consequently increase the percentage participation of patients who qualify for and accept the treatment plans presented to them.
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.
Ensure that you chalk out a timeline with your patients to implement the treatment plan.
Timelines are generally 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 regarding finances, time, and comfort.
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 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.
Learn from your experience and continue to refine the 9-step approach to guarantee a steady and consistent uptick in your case acceptance rates.
CareStack, the all-in-one cloud based practice management software offer advanced treatment planner allows dental practices to easily create and manage treatment plans for their patients. Team members can create phases, rename them, and designate the time needed for each phase. They can also assign a treatment coordinator to track the success of the plan.