Case acceptance robbers and how to stop them

March 21, 2012

They are lurking in your office waiting to steal treatment plans and hide them in the unscheduled treatment reports in your computer. If you track case acceptance, you are one step ahead of these robbers because you can then start to identify and analyze your systems and communication skills to find your vulnerable areas and take steps to shore them up. Guessing or using your “gut feeling” about case acceptance will not serve you well. A good goal to aim for is 85% for new patients; 90% for patients of record.

They are lurking in your office waiting to steal treatment plans and hide them in the unscheduled treatment reports in your computer. If you track case acceptance, you are one step ahead of these robbers because you can then start to identify and analyze your systems and communication skills to find your vulnerable areas and take steps to shore them up. Guessing or using your “gut feeling” about case acceptance will not serve you well. A good goal to aim for is 85% for new patients; 90% for patients of record.

How do you secure your practice from losing countless opportunities to provide the clinical care that your patients need and the revenue needed to keep your practice financially healthy and viable? And, how do you save the countless hours and expense of “chasing” patients with follow-up calls and letters after a patient either says “no” in the office or later cancels an appointment and does not reschedule?

As in clinical dentistry, prevention is the key. Like your home and car are armed with security devices to prevent theft, dentists and their teams can learn to identify and improve the systems and communication skills that will prevent the case acceptance robbers from “stealing” thousands of dollars from your practice.

Assign this article to be read by each team member, then have a staff meeting. Explain the purpose of the following activity-to analyze systems and verbal skills related to case acceptance. Each team member, including the dentist is to self-assess and identify what is working successfully as well as identify areas for improvement. Inviting feedback from others is extremely helpful; we can’t always catch every opportunity for improvement by ourselves. If you choose this option, agree from the start that this is NOT a blame game; agree to be open to constructive feedback. Each team member needs to put on their “Sherlock Holmes” and start looking and listening for these robbers. Use the bulleted points as checklists and write down your findings.

Let’s start with the dentist during the process of diagnosing and presenting treatment to patients:

• Is enough time taken with patients so that they are not only told what treatment they need, but they are SHOWN with mirrors and intraoral cameras? Are they given pictures of the areas of concern?
• Is the dentist firm in the recommendations for treatment? Or, is the dentist saying things like: “You ought to start thinking about getting this done”; “It’s kind of important to schedule this treatment”; “When you’re ready, you should set-up an appointment”; “We’ll watch this and check it next time”. Vague wording can leave patients confused and unmotivated to get their treatment completed
• Are patients encouraged to ask questions? Is adequate time taken to answer those questions?
• Is a specific timeframe for completing treatment given to the patient? If the treatment is “out there” with no timeframe, the chase for the administrative staff begins!
• When a patient presents obstacles to committing to the recommended treatment, does the dentist have the verbal skills to effectively partner with the patient to overcome the challenges, or to effectively hand-off the patient to the staff member who can help?
• If the patient does not bring up any obstacles, is the dentist saying, “Before I walk you up to the front desk to speak with Judy, do you foresee anything that will prevent you from scheduling the treatment we discussed?” This is a powerful and very important question and will give the team information to work with so that they can help overcome any challenges that may prevent the patient from following through with treatment

Let’s take a look and listen to the clinical staff members who are in the op when the dentist presents treatment:

• Are you fully present and listening carefully and entering procedures in the treatment plan? Are you taking notes while the dentist is talking about treatment? Are you noting important information/comments from the patient?
• Is the treatment plan completed BEFORE the patient leaves the op so that the admin team doesn’t have to “tap dance” and the patient doesn’t have to wait at the front desk?
• When the dentist leaves the op, what do you say if the patient asks for YOUR opinion? Are you enthusiastically supporting the dentist’s clinical recommendations? Robbers are waiting to hear you say things like, “I’m sure glad it’s not me, because I could never afford that treatment”
• Are you doing an informative patient debrief that summarizes the appointment and emphasizes the importance of the next appointment?
• Are you taking the time to invite and answer questions from patients?
• Are you personally escorting patients to the front desk and giving pertinent information that will help the admin staff schedule the appointment?

Now, it’s time to look and listen at what takes place at the front desk:

• No matter how busy the office is, are you able to present a calm, pleasant, helpful attitude to patients and treat each one like a VIP?
• Do you have a back-up system so that you can put your entire focus on the patient standing before you? Robbers love to see the patient slip out the door without going through the process of having today’s procedure/s and fees explained, collecting payment, and making financial arrangements and scheduling the patient for the needed treatment recommended today
• Are you comfortable with partnering with the patient to overcome any obstacles standing in the way of their following through with treatment?
• Are you comfortable with reinforcing the need for treatment?
• Are you confident about presenting financial options for patients?
• Are you encouraging the patient to ask questions and then really listening to them?

Once you have gathered your findings, have a well-organized staff meeting. Remember, it’s about systems and verbal skills that can be improved, not about blaming each other. Develop action plans to improve or tweak your systems and verbal skills related to case acceptance. Track case acceptance and get statistical proof that your efforts are in fact keeping those robbers locked up!