Patient Financing: Overcoming Barriers to Treatment

Author : Dental Product Shopper
Published Date 03/08/2010
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Cost is a common theme in surveys published by the American Dental Association reporting reasons people give for not seeking dental care. Cost is also consistently reported as one of the main reasons people do not proceed with treatment once it has been presented. Finding ways for your patients to afford dentistry is critical?possibly now more than ever. One way to do this is to get involved with a patient financing program and maximize the system to its fullest potential.

Patient Financing: Overcoming Barriers to Treatment

Cost is a common theme in surveys published by the American Dental Association reporting reasons people give for not seeking dental care. Cost is also consistently reported as one of the main reasons people do not proceed with treatment once it has been presented. Finding ways for your patients to afford dentistry is critical?possibly now more than ever. One way to do this is to get involved with a patient financing program and maximize the system to its fullest potential.

Do the Math

Determine the value of your average treatment plan. If one more person per week proceeds with treatment because he or she can afford it, what would that mean to you? Take 1 treatment plan fee and multiply that by 4 weeks in the month and then mutiply that by 12 months in the year and see what would happen to the productivity of your practice.

For example, if one person per week goes ahead with $500 worth of treatment because you make the financing of dentistry comfortable for them, you could make $2000 per month or $24,000 per year.

And if 1 person a day could proceed with $500 worth of treatment, you could make $100,000 per year of additional revenue.

Market Your Financing Program

Once your team is on board and fully understands your patient financing program, you can launch it to your entire patient family. In a special mailing, or in your regularly published patient education newsletter and/or e-newsletter, tell your patients about the program. Present it in an exciting, informative manner that stresses the benefits to the patient.

Some patients in your practice will not need the program. If they don?t need financial assistance, encourage them to pass the information on to someone who does. Let your patients become your ?sales force.?

Some patients may not be coming to you on a regular basis or may be putting off needed or desired treatment because of the fear of cost. Others may have completed one phase of treatment but do not want to schedule the next phase because of money. Establishing a line of credit through your patient financing program may break this cost barrier.

In addition, if someone is interested in cosmetic dentistry but thinks he or she can?t afford it, patient financing might be just the answer. Most people are more interested in how much something will cost per month than they are in the total investment. If someone wants something badly enough and they can fit a monthly payment into their budget, they might just say ?yes.?

Financial Consultation: The Moment of Truth

There is always a critical ?moment of truth? in your practice when you are presenting the financial responsibility for treatment. No matter how much someone may want to proceed with treatment, if it doesn?t seem affordable the patient will walk out your door.

Every consultation has 2 phases: the clinical recommendation and the financial presentation. Do not underestimate the importance of the financial presentation. You can significantly increase the productivity of your practice by making it possible for more patients to say yes to comprehensive care. Clear the barrier of money by making this financial discussion as positive as possible. The following 6 criteria are very important to the financial consultation.

Privacy.

Make all financial ar - rangements in a quiet area that provides the necessary privacy. Do not try to make financial agreements at the front desk in front of other patients and team members.

My husband Dr. John H. Jameson created a private space for presenting recommendations and his treatment coordinator was always present. Once the clinical recommendation was completed, he transferred the patient?s trust to the treatment coordinator and excused himself.

The treatment coordinator was fully prepared to provide quality third-party reinforcement. She was able to answer clinical questions that the patient may not have been comfortable asking the dentist.

All clinical questions must be answered before a discussion of money takes place. Patients are easily overwhelmed with clinical information or fear and cannot fully comprehend the financial details. Allowing them to ask all of their clinical questions makes it possible for you to speak to a logical, invested individual who can comfortably book the appointment for continued treatment.

Professional Image.

The person making the financial arrangement needs to be dressed in business attire and must present a very professional image. Don?t present your clinical plan and then your financial plan with a mask dangling from your ear. Make the patient feel important by taking him or her seriously.

Introductions.

Make sure that appropriate introductions are made if the patient has not met the treatment coordinator. Body language, sincerity, and verbal skills will allow your patient to follow the right cues. Here?s an example of those verbal skills.

?Ms. Jones, this is Jan Davis, my Treatment Coordinator. I have asked her to join us today for our consultation. Jan will be working with you to make the financial arrangement, and she will be helping with the scheduling of your appointments. I felt that it was very important that she hear what I am recommending for you. Is this all right with you??

Body Language.

Watch for buying signs. During the treatment consultation, the treatment coordinator can watch the patient?s body language for signs of discomfort and interest. Also, it helps the dentist and treatment coordinator solidify one more time that they?re on the same page for the clinical needs of the patient and how they are to be addressed. Missing links of communication are less likely when the case has been planned and presented together.

Call the Patient by Name.

During your financial discussion, refer to the patient by name. Patients need to feel that your time with them is personalized. Build systems that make this effective. For example, during your new patient experience, make sure your documentation prompts you to inquire about what the patient is called. Legal names are not always what patients prefer.

Have All Necessary Information.

Be prepared. All of the appropriate information needs to be complete and in the consultation room during the financial consultation. If a patient expresses a concern about money on the phone, send information about your patient financing program. Make the effort to get the patient pre-approved before he or she walks into the office. If the patient expresses financial concerns at the initial appointment, have him or her complete an application for your financing program while in the office.

Meet Patient Needs and Build Your Practice

Many patient financing programs exist. Do your research and find the program that will best meet your patients? needs. When your patients are comfortable with the financial arrangements of their treatment, your practice benefits by retaining patients, bringing in new patients, and completing treatment.

Cathy Jameson is president and CEO of Jameson Management, a team of dental practice management coaches helping to improve the lives of dental teams across the world through inoffice comprehensive consulting, products and events. For more information, call 877.369.5558. The first ten callers to mention this article may receive a free copy of the ?Collect What You Produce? industry best-selling book by Cathy Jameson. Also visit www.JamesonManagement.com today.

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