Are patients accepting the treatment recommended by your dentist? This is something we talk about a lot with practices. Patients are often hesitant to schedule their treatment before they leave the office. Unfortunately, this causes a lot of extra work because you eventually have to track down people to get them scheduled.
As their ultimate source of knowledge when it comes to their oral health, you must gain patients’ trust. You need to educate them about what’s happening in their mouth, what will fix it, and what could happen if they don’t treat a problem.
We’ve found that dental assistants are the first team members patients feel comfortable with when it comes to asking questions, and they trust the assistants’ responses. It is especially important that you be ready to address patients’ questions and give them answers they will understand.
Don’t take patients’ hesitance personally. People are surrounded by information and unfortunately, we often don’t know what to believe anymore. Much of the information out there contradicts itself, which confuses people. Your patients feel this confusion when their treatment is presented because they don’t understand it.
Try not to let patients leave the office without an appointment. Many will want to go home and think about the treatment plan just presented to them, but you should still try to get them to schedule if possible. Once someone walks out the door without an appointment, it will be 10 times harder to get their treatment scheduled. If a patient is not sure about what to do, recommend scheduling the appointment two to three weeks out. This will give them time to decide how they want to proceed. If they decide not to do it, there’s still time to make the schedule change.
Let patients know that it’s a good idea to schedule appointments when they’re in the office so they can get the date and time that works best for them. It’s like fingernails on the chalkboard when team members tell patients that they can just call the office later to schedule their treatment. But unless they’re in pain, they’re probably not going to call, and you’ll have to track them down.
Why aren’t patients scheduling?
If your patients do not want to schedule, determine what’s keeping them from doing so.
- If a patient is fearful, educate them about their treatment and what it involves. Calm their nerves and determine where their fear is coming from, and what you can do to help.
- If their concern is time, get as much done in an appointment as possible so they don’t have to come back several times. Tell them it’s possible to get treatment done in fewer appointments, but that those appointments will be longer. This may encourage them to accept the treatment. If you let them know you’re doing everything you can to make things easier for them, patients will appreciate it.
- If money is the deciding factor, the front office team will need to work with the patient to determine what options would work best for them. This could be prepaying for treatment, using a credit card or CareCredit, or whatever options your practice offers. When handing off patients to the front office team, communicate their concerns so that the front office team will know about the barriers keeping patients from treatment.
Have an organized and easy-to-understand treatment plan for patients to take home with them. We often see treatment plans with a bunch of scribbles on them or plans that have so much information that patients don’t know what they’re looking at. Most practice management software lets you customize what to include in a treatment plan. The cleaner the printout, the better. For instance, if someone comes into your office and doesn’t have insurance, then take that part off the treatment plan. Don’t clutter up the plan with unnecessary items. You want patients to take the information home and be able to read it, understand exactly what they need, and how much it will cost them.
Having your patients schedule their treatment before they leave your office must become a number one priority. If it isn’t, you will have to work extra hard to get people back into the office to get their treatment completed.
As cofounder of Global Team Solutions (GTS), Janice Janssen, RDH, CFE, enjoys consulting because it allows her to share her techniques with the doctors, hygienists, and office staff who are on the front line every day. Janssen is a past treasurer of the Academy of Dental Management Consultants, and is a certified fraud examiner (CFE), which positions her as an expert dental practice fraud and embezzlement. You can reach her at [email protected].