Whether because they’re concerned about the risk of COVID-19 concerns or worried about money, many patients these days are less likely to follow through with treatment recommendations than they used to be. In a June Kaiser Family Foundation survey, more than half (52%) of respondents said they or someone in their family has skipped or delayed getting medical or dental care because of coronavirus that month.
That’s having a major impact on dental practices’ incomes. In a survey conducted in May, 89% of dental providers reported that their practices received less revenue in the preceding week compared to a typical pre-pandemic week. Of those, 86% of providers reported a 25% or greater drop in revenue.
Higher treatment acceptance can make all the difference in your practice’s revenues. According to ongoing research by the Levin Group Data Center, higher case acceptance is one attribute the top-performing 10% of dental practices have in common. How can you increase case acceptance in challenging times?
Focus on benefits. Don’t get overly technical by going on and on about the materials or equipment you’ll use to treat the problem. Instead, explain what the issue is, what you will do to fix it, and what the benefits to the patient will be (no more gum pain, a better smile, etc.). Without using scare tactics, paint a picture of what could happen if the patient doesn’t follow through with treatment (continued decay leading to an eventual root canal, for example). The goal is to educate the patient about treatment so they can make an informed decision.
Get their commitment. The biggest step in treatment acceptance is getting patients to acknowledge they want to have the treatment. Encourage patients to ask questions and listen carefully to their concerns. Once a patient has committed to acknowledging the treatment is important and that they want to have it done, you can work with them on the details of how to make it happen (such as payment).
Be prepared with options. If patients balk at going ahead with the full treatment you recommend, have some backup alternatives at the ready. For example, can you perform the treatment in stages, focusing on the most urgent issues first?
Be sensitive to financial concerns. Many patients are under financial strain from losing their jobs and with them, their dental insurance. Offer options such as setting up a payment plan, providing a discount if the balance is paid in full in advance, or accepting third-party financing methods such as CareCredit.
Book the appointment right away. If a patient agrees to treatment, have them book the appointment on the spot. This boosts the chances that the patient will actually keep the appointment, since many patients who go home to “think about it” will never schedule the treatment.
Follow up with the patient after the initial presentation. If the patient does go home without making an appointment, have your staff contact them the next morning to follow up and schedule the appointment. You can turn on Lighthouse 360’s automated treatment plan reminders to ensure follow-up doesn’t slip through the cracks, or contact the patient via two-way texting to discuss the procedure.
Offer same-day treatment if possible. In today’s COVID-19 cautious environment, many patients want to limit their exposure to the dentist’s office. Fitting in treatment the same day can help patients avoid multiple trips. Adjusting your schedule to allow the flexibility to handle same-day patients can help ensure those patients who need further treatment don’t slip away.
Be consistent. Develop a system for presenting treatment options to patients. Everyone in your office has a role to play in increasing case acceptance. The Levin Group study found top-performing dental practices are “consistent and rigorous” in proposing comprehensive treatment and suggesting financial options for patients.
By putting in the effort to educate patients, provide them with options and get them to commit, you can increase case acceptance in your practice and help get your revenues back to pre-pandemic volume.
This article is paid for by Lighthouse 360, Inc. You should not rely upon the material or information provided by Lighthouse as a basis of making any decisions without the proper legal or other professional advice specific to your situation as needed. Certain components of the products or services described above are provided by third parties. Lighthouse 360, Inc and its affiliates are not responsible for, and expressly disclaim, all liability for damages of any kind arising out of the use of those third-party products or services.