Getting Patients To “Yes”: 6 Ways To Improve Treatment Acceptance In A Volatile Economy

June 2023 ISSUE June 1, 2023
Practice Management Profitability
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With the current economic uncertainty, treatment acceptance rates are falling. While the economy is out of your control, patient acceptance rates are not. Here are 6 strategies to help keep your operatories filled and your patients healthy.

  1. Demonstrate the need for care

This sounds obvious, since it’s clear to you that your patient needs treatment. However, many patients lack a comprehensive understanding of their oral health challenges. You need to:

  • Show…: Use radiographs, digital scans, and intra-oral camera shots to highlight their dental problems.
  • … and tell: Be sure both you and your hygienist speak up about dental health issues you observe.
  • Share the truth and the consequences: Communicate the potential negative consequences of refusing or delaying treatment. Explain how forgoing treatment could worsen their dental health, affecting not only their appearance, but also their overall health. For example, as we previously reported, decades of research prove the connection between periodontal disease and a host of other medical issues, including stroke, heart attack, etc.
  1. Highlight your competitive edge

Even in inflationary times, patients are willing to pay for treatment they perceive as valuable. Share testimonials or before-and-after photos (with consent) of past similar successful treatments.

  1. Give patients options and be transparent

Present several treatment options and recommend the best course of action based on your professional judgment. Complex treatment plans can be overwhelming for patients. Try to simplify them as much as possible, using layperson’s terms to explain the procedures and expected outcomes.

Be clear about what the treatment will entail and what it will cost. Such transparency can significantly improve treatment acceptance rates.

Many patients cancel or no-show because they’re unclear as to the cost of needed treatment and how it will be paid for. Thus, it’s critical to get a signed written agreement indicating when and how payment will be made.

  1. Don’t let money get in the way

Not everyone can afford to pay in full, but that shouldn’t keep them from saying “yes” to treatment. You can make your services affordable without cutting costs by offering flexible payment options. A clear, detailed discussion about your payment alternatives can alleviate many financial concerns.

If you do this in-house, ask for a reasonable down payment—around $500 for the patient-pay portion of the treatment cost. Set up monthly payments of no more than $200 a month for the balance by automatic credit card charge or bank draft. Don’t charge interest. Tip: To be sure the payment goes through each month, require patients to provide a backup account to charge (i.e., bank draft if using a credit card and vice versa).

  1. Offer a “payment-in-full” discount

Getting the full payment in advance all but ensures the patient will follow through with treatment. It’s also a huge incentive for patients who can afford it.

We’ve found it’s more enticing to describe this incentive as a flat cash amount, rather than a percentage discount. A $250 adjustment on a $5,000 fee is a much more powerful incentive to pay in full than a 5% discount.

  1. Cultivate relationships with patients

Your relationship with the patient significantly influences their perception of your quality of care. Take the time to get to know your patients and understand their concerns and preferences. People make decisions based on how they feel. They need to like—and have confidence in—you and your team. If they don’t, they’re more likely to say “no” to costly treatments.

Each interaction with your team members will influence how the patient feels about your practice. While this sounds obvious, you’d be surprised how many of these tips get ignored:

  • Make sure the front desk team warmly greets each patient by name. (Be sure they know what the patient wants to be called: Mary, Ms. Johnson, Dr. Smith, etc.)
  • Train your staff to effectively explain treatments and answer patient questions. They won’t have your in-depth knowledge, but they should be able to communicate effectively with patients.
  • De-stress the scheduling process. A frustrating scheduling process makes it easy for the patient to lose confidence and cancel their planned treatment.

By implementing these strategies, you can get your patients to say “yes” to the treatments they need. This improves their health and ensures the success of your practice.

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