Case acceptance plays a critical role in the success of a dental practice. If every other management protocol is performed properly, yet patients are not accepting proposed treatment, then a notable percentage of production will be lost.
Presenting a case requires more than explaining the diagnostic findings and subsequent recommendations. Patients rely on dentists as their expert oral health advisors. If the doctor doesn’t present all potential treatment in an influential manner, patients will miss opportunities to improve their oral health or take advantage of elective services.
In the new dental economy, a majority of dental practices are experiencing production declines. As a result, case presentation must focus not only on informing patients but also on motivating them to accept treatment. To do so, dentists should follow very specific steps, including:
1. Perform a comprehensive diagnosis on all patients. There are still some practices that only perform a partial diagnosis, often excluding areas such as periodontal disease. Clearly, there’s an opportunity to expand the scope of beneficial oral healthcare services for patients. Practices should consider conducting an annual comprehensive examination in the following areas: Periodontal, Tooth-by-tooth, Cosmetic, Implant, Occlusal.
2. Establish an ideal treatment plan. Many dentists focus only on immediate needs and do not present a comprehensive set of recommendations to patients for fear of overwhelming them with too much information.
An excellent approach is to present all need-based dentistry first, followed by a review of possible elective treatment options. Some patients will accept only needed care, yet this will often include more than the most immediate needs. Other patients, now acquainted with the elective possibilities, are more likely to be interested in them after need-based dentistry has been completed. Whitening is an excellent example of an elective treatment with a very broad appeal to patients. Sometimes, it may take several case presentations before patients accept elective treatment.
3. Encourage questions. It is important to remember that the more complex the treatment plan, the more important it is to allow patients to formulate and then ask questions. In some cases, this may mean an additional consult appointment. The extra time gives patients ample time to think about the recommendations and any additional information they may need to make a decision. Answering questions is a major factor in helping patients become comfortable with the recommendations and enabling them to make important decisions.
4. Always ask for a commitment. Getting patients to agree to treatment can be as simple as asking, “Mrs. Jones, would you like to do this?” It helps crystallize patients’ thinking about what has been recommended and leads them to the point of making a decision. Presentations often fail because dentists do not complete this critical step.
Many dentists believe that simply informing patients about treatment is sufficient to close a case. In a difficult economy where patients are hesitant to spend money, this is no longer true. Dentists must motivate patients to accept recommended need-based care. Doctors also need to become comfortable informing patients about the benefits of appropriate elective treatment, so they can make the best decisions about their dental care.
Editor's Note: To learn more about increasing case acceptance, come to Dr. Levin’s upcoming seminar “The New Rules of Increasing Practice Production.” Pick a seminar location that fits your schedule at www.levingroup.com/gpseminars.