ADA 2016 Update: Boost Treatment Acceptance to Get Paid for Your Work


When patients come into your office, they want you to take them to a better place, said Debra Englehardt-Nash, a dental practice management and motivational consultant.

, a dental practice management and motivational consultant, recently offered approaches to increasing treatment acceptance and keeping patients happy at the American Dental Association’s 2016 Meeting in Denver, CO. “When patients come into your office, they want you to take them to a better place,” she said. Here is some actionable advice to achieve that goal, according to Englehardt-Nash.

The phone call

When a prospective patient calls the dental office, the receptionist has approximately twelve seconds to get the patient to like them, Englehardt-Nash said. Some keys to being successful on the phone include using the patient’s name, asking for permission to ask the patient questions, and explaining to the patient why you do what you do at the practice. It is important to make the first exam have value for the patient

The informational/welcome packet

What information are you sending to your patients? Is the informational packet simply a packet of policies? Englehardt-Nash said it is important to emphasize that the documents aren’t policies, but rather office standards. Always remind the patient that the office standards were developed with the patient in mind, and the purpose is to provide them with the best care possible.

Meeting the team

When a patient walks into the office, the first people they meet are the team, not the dentist.

It is imperative that the employees in the office have excellent communication skills, Englehardt-Nash said. If team members don’t feel their communication is adequate, enrolling in a communications workshop is something to consider. Just one word, phrase, or action can make the difference between a patient choosing your practice, and walking out the door.

Presenting the treatment plan

When it is time to present the treatment plan, ask the patient’s permission to let you tell them what you can do for them. Listen to patient concerns, avoid interruptions, and leave out unnecessary details, Englehardt-Nash advised. Begin with the end in mind: describe the benefits of the ideal treatment plan so that they patient knows what’s possible.

Do not leave the patient before all of their questions and concerns have been answered. However, avoid information overload. “The confused mind always says no,” Engelhardt-Nash reminded the audience.

The entire team needs to be involved in helping the patient understand their treatment plan and care. “The decision to accept treatment happens with the clinical team and not the financial team,” noted Engelhardt-Nash.

Payment for treatment

When discussing insurance, wording is important. Be positive when discussing what an insurance policy will pay for. If a patient cannot afford their treatment, it is important to offer external financial options. Never put a patient into financial hardship. If a patient can’t afford a procedure to address a condition that isn’t life threatening, let them know it’s OK to wait until their budget allows for treatment. If a patient complains about the fees, remind them that the fees are based on the skill required to do the procedure well, the materials the office uses, and the time it takes to do the procedure right. Never apologize for your fee structure.

First appointment follow-up

It is very likely a patient will go home after their first appointment and have a lot of unanswered questions. A great strategy to address that is a post-new-appointment phone call. Explain to the patient that the doctor wanted to make sure all of their lingering questions were answered, and you are available now to answer anything that has come up since they left the office. This is a simple strategy that doesn’t take much time, and really shows the patient you value and care about them.

All these strategies can help to increase treatment acceptance and patient satisfaction with your dental office. Engelhardt-Nash finished her presentation with the following thought: “Spend more time on people work than on paperwork.”

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