Dentistry and the business of dentistry have changed in recent years. With economic downturns and a slow recovery, your patients are responding and reacting to their healthcare needs differently. In some ways this has been a slow evolution and in other ways it seems to have happened overnight. The dental industry and dental practices are competing for the same dollars as retail businesses. The American population is making different decisions with their money; people are not always buying what they need as much as they are buying what they want. They are making their buying decision on the “terms” of the purchase – how long they have to pay for it, are they charged interest – does the monthly payment fit into their life. One goal for every practice is to assist their patients in achieving optimum dental health, and one way to do that is helping them afford the treatment they need and deserve.
If you are finding fewer patients are moving forward with recommended treatment, take a look at your current financial arrangements and policy. Are the financial options comfortable for your patients to afford treatment? Do you offer third-party financing such as CareCredit? These are just a few questions to ask yourself and your team when reviewing your current financial arrangements and policy. Your team members are the “boots on the ground” working with patients daily, presenting treatments and making financial arrangements – what are they hearing from patients? How are patients making treatment decisions? Are you confident your team is comfortable having financial conversations with patients? (Take a look back at Kathy Brodal’s blog post – “A Well-Trained Staff Will Significantly Impact Case Acceptance” for a great overview.) Of course you don’t want to go back to “being the bank” and carrying account balances over a long period of time, but providing options for your patients to move forward with treatment in a manner that fits into their life is ideal.
Using a clear and simple form outlining the treatment plan, financial options and agreed upon arrangements will help avoid any potential miscommunication. Have the patient sign this form and provide a copy so you both have a record of the discussion.
Here are a few tips on what would be included on the form:
- Total dollar value of the treatment plan
- Financial options: CareCredit, installment payments, use of a debit or credit card
- Payment date(s)
- If any interest or service charge will be applied – if they miss or skip an agreed upon payment or the terms are extended beyond the signed agreement
Finding a balance for your practice and your patients around financial arrangements is key to ongoing treatment acceptance. Monitoring your larger case acceptance can also give you a view into how your patients are making their treatment decisions. What is your case acceptance? (Review “Excellence in Case Acceptance,”.) Take a layered approach to your financial arrangements and policy – where are treatment and financial discussions taking place? (Refer back to Alan Johnson’s post – “A Private Area for Financial Discussions Increases Case Acceptance.”)
Patterson offers resources for financial arrangements and tracking case acceptance success with OnTrack. Go to www.myontrack.com or ask your Patterson representative for more information and how to sign up to use OnTrack in your practice.