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Dental Practice Solutions - Debbie Bittke

Your Comprehensive Treatment Plan: Patient Case Acceptance

By: Debbie Seidel-Bittke, RDH, BS

October 6, 2012

Every dental practice wants their patients to accept comprehensive treatment. Research states that at most, 25% of patients in a dental practice accept their treatment plan, and schedule an appointment.

What are some of the factors that will affect their decision? How can you change your current treatment plan case acceptance to be at 70% or higher?

Many factors play into your patients decision to accept and schedule treatment in your office. One of the most important factors that will get your patients to say “Yes” to case acceptance and schedule the appointment(s) is trust.

When patients feel good about your office, when the know they can entrust the care of their health to your dental office, it is because they trust you and now they are more likely to schedule for necessary treatment. You will find these are the patients who return for their appointments year after year, they are the people who trust you and the entire team. Your patients want to know and feel, deep inside, that you really care about them! How can you show a new patient that you really care about them and not just their pocket book?

Once patients trust you, they feel a sense of commitment and they are the patients who return for their appointments, no matter what is happening in their economy. These are also the patients most likely to make payment in full.

“It’s Complicated”

Case acceptance is a complex issue and requires a team approach. All decision making involves the understanding of human behavior.

Let’s break down case acceptance into 4 steps:

1. Developing a foundation for trust to occur

2. Understand your patients’ needs and their personality type

3. Effective communication

•           Be able to explain the why, what, how, etc.

4. Offer flexible financial arrangements

This month we will only discuss steps 1 and 2.


Step 1: Developing a Foundation for Trust to Occur

The first step to have patients accept your diagnosed/recommended treatment, and returning indefinitely for their appointments, is to gain trust. Trust is instinctive.

If patients have not established a trusting relationship they are not going to accept comprehensive treatment and they are less likely to become a long-term patient.

Building trust starts before patients even walk through the door of your office.  As you are reading this right now, millions of people are on the internet and hundreds of thousands are on the internet now, searching for a dentist.

When a patient lands on your website their mind begins the trust building factor. It continues when they first call your office and then as a patient in your office, your words and the manner in with you say your words build their ultimate trust or distrust.

The Important Trust Building Factors

When someone visits your website for the first time, they will want to easily find the information they came looking for. This may be a list of the services you provide, special programs you offer, insurance accepted, how they can schedule an appointment. Can a patient request an appointment through your website? Do you have photos of your beautiful cosmetic dentistry? Do you have photos of your team and a bio that talks about employee interests and their areas of expertise?

When a potential patient calls your office, will the person who answers your phone be friendly? Will they say their name? Imagine the first phone call as a phone call with your future spouse. If you don’t like the first conversation what are the chances you will be calling back to schedule a date?

People instinctively look for a specific comfort level when they are interacting with someone on the phone. The first person to speak with a caller must be courteous and reassuring. Understand the exact language and tone of the caller and mirror this during the phone conversations. This will put the caller at ease. Be able to give an answer to their questions whether it be financial or insurance driven.

How complicated is it to make an appointment in your office? Are people calling immediately put on hold? Can people visting your website make a request to schedule an appointment?

Many issues are important to discuss before a patient comes to your office but try to make the first call simple, succinct and one that is helpful to the patient. Try to not ask too many questions over the phone so you don’t complicate the process

What occurs during the patient’s first treatment appointment?

The first appointment when the patient is in your treatment room is when they will assess your “chair side manner,” your concern for their comfort, and how gentle you are during treatment.

Trust requires that the dentist and team keep their word. If the patient was quoted a fee, this fee can not change unless there is a change in the treatment plan and at this point, you will need to stop the procedure and explain the change. (The what and why, etc.) If your new patients and/or patients of record, expect to see a particular dentist or auxiliary, (RDH, etc.) they must be appointed with this dentist or auxiliary. If you tell a patient you will call them back within the hour, or the next day, they must receive this phone call.

Each time a patient visits your office for a scheduled appointment, they gain further confidence in your dental practice.

Step 2: Patient Priorities and Personality

The second step is to understand your patients’ needs, their priorities and their financial situation. To understand this means that you perceive what goes on inside their thought process. It will be helpful if you can identify the various personality traits of each individual patient and communicate effectively using these tools to help you understand the who, what and how, (etc.) they “see life”, through their own pair of glasses.

Depending upon the level of care and expense of the patients treatment plan, you may want to bring the patient back for a separate appointment to privately discuss in a consultant room or a private area. Always discuss treatment plans with patients, in a confidential area and without anyone feeling rushed or being interrupted.

A persons behavior patterns affect how they make a decision. Learning to understand these various personality types can result in positive communication, which results in building trust with the patient, retaining patients long-term and increased profits in your practice.

There are many different personality tests to evaluate personalities, how to respond and interact with each type. For this blog we will refer to the Meyers-Briggs Type Indicator® (MBTI) personality inventory. ( The MBTI uses factors such as introversion/extroversion, sensing/intuition, thinking/feeling, and judgment/perception to identify the various personality types. Every dental office needs a simple system that enables you to effectively communicate with your patients, as much as possible, to predict patient behaviors. The system that you choose to use must take into account not only patient behavior but also priorities and financial considerations.

The MBTI categorizes personalities into various types as mentioned above. You can take your own personality test and share with the entire team. It can make for a great team meeting and is a great resource to building a successful team. Here is where you can begin practicing how to get to know other people’s personality type and understand how they make decisions. Try it out within your team now!

When you can easily identify your patient’s personality type and learn how to communicate within their comfort level, you will turn objections into opportunities and create a huge TRUST factor with your patients! This is also a great way to build teamwork within your office! Try using this within the team.

At this point it is important to understand that having a specific methodology for case presentation is critical for your success and the best outcome of your patient(s).

When the entire team understands the process of getting your patients to “YES” for comprehensive treatment, you will begin building trust before a patient ever steps foot inside your office.

If your efforts are a desire to be helpful, reassuring, caring and understanding of your various patient personalities, and their mind-set. If you can eliminate their fears as well, your rate of success for comprehensive care will soar and your profits will take a LEAP– UP! Getting to “Yes” requires a commitment from the entire team which will benefit everyone!

Next week Part 2 will continue with this topic.

Do you want more of this? Be sure to check back in the next 30 days for the release of our 12 week program dedicated to CO-munnication to Increase Comprehensive Treatment.

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