Sometimes it’s not what you say, it’s where you say it

When presenting treatment recommendations and the cost of care, helping patients understand the value of the dentistry and their payment options and obligations is important. As important is presenting that information in an environment that gives them the ability to make decisions that are best for their oral health and financial situation.

Many practices have the luxury of space and can dedicate a room for treatment and fee discussions, which is ideal. But even practices with more limited space can have this conversation in a way that is comfortable for patients and creates a “partnership” relationship.

The first step is to only discuss clinical findings when patients are tilted back in the chair. When the diagnosis is complete and you are ready to talk about treatment recommendations, bring patients upright, remove their bibso they are less of a patient and more of a partner in their oral health and have an eye-to-eye conversation.  All treatment discussions can be done with the patients in the chair. And if patients ask about the cost of care, the doctor can either provide an estimate or let patients know they will be introduced to a member of the team who is an expert at the financial aspects of dentistry who will detail the costs and payment options. The dental chair is not the place to have the financial discussion because often the patient feels pressure to accept care without fully considering their financial responsibilities.

Ideally, the financial discussion should be done in a private or semi-private “non-clinical” space. This can be an office or even the front desk. The goal is to give patients the time and opportunity to digest the doctor’s treatment recommendations and thoughtfully commit their time and money to care. To achieve this goal, patients should not be under stress, sedation or in pain because patients who agree without careful consideration may feel coerced into treatment they didn’t want and, subsequently, feel they should not have to pay for.

And finally, provide patients with treatment recommendations and their payment preferences and agreement in writing, so they have a document to refer to once they have left the practice. CareCredit, the patient financing option integrated into your Eaglesoft software, offers free and easy to use resources that help you create a Customized Payment Options Form and Written Financial Policy to provide clarity and help prevent future disputes.