The dental team approach to case acceptance

Nov. 18, 2012
Each team member in your dental practice plays an integral part in case acceptance. Kathleen O’Donnell of Jameson Management explains how to create a relationship with your patients and involve your entire team in educating patients and making them comfortable enough to accept the dental treatment you recommend.

Each team member in your dental practice plays an integral part in case acceptance. Let’s first take a look at the six steps to an effective case presentation. Each step is essential and must be done in sequential order for a successful outcome.

  1. Build the relationship with new and existing patients.
  2. Establish the need and find out your patient’s expectations.
  3. Educate and motivate your clients with verbal skills.
  4. Ask for a commitment and take the next step going forward.
  5. Make financial arrangements with your patients.
  6. Schedule the appointment.

You can build your practice from within using effective communication. One way to accomplish is by thinking of the new-patient experience as a clean slate, which is a great way to reinvigorate your communication techniques. Another way is through case presentation. Creating an intimate space and keeping it private is essential to a great presentation. Then there are financial arrangements. Be up front with the cost so that your patients are not surprised when payment is due. This will help to avoid negative outcomes.

It is also important to focus on skillful communication between your team and your patients. Each member of the team can use efficient communication and help you get dentistry out of the charts and into the mouths of your patients. Know that each member of the team can make or break the patient relationship.

Let’s look at the barriers you face with your patients and discuss why people don’t seek dental care:

  1. It costs too much.
  2. They had a bad dental experience.
  3. There is no perceived need (i.e., dental work is not necessary until a problem occurs).
  4. They don’t know a good dentist.
  5. They have a fear of dentistry itself.
  6. They don’t have time for dental care.

Now, how do you deal with these objections? The most important quality is trust. From your experience and conversations to finance and follow-up calls, all interactions with patients should be based on trust. Next you must create need. Find out your patients’ wants and let them know how you can help them reach their dental goals. Then, once the need is established, be sure to create urgency through scheduling. Lastly, create value in every interaction. You can do this through listening.

Listening is more than hearing. It’s truly paying attention to the needs and wants of your patients. Here are the aspects of listening you and your team can use when engaging patients:

  • Body language
  • Tone of voice
  • Passive listening through acknowledgement
  • Active listening through summarizing content

Good listening is essential in communication and so are team meetings. We recommend conducting a morning huddle — a 10-minute meeting each morning that focuses on key aspects of the practice. We recommend having a facilitator or business administrator lead these meetings. We also suggest each team member have a schedule of the day as well as any necessary charts.

Here are a few items to include in your morning huddle agenda:

  • Yesterday’s, today’s, and tomorrow’s production
  • Voids in schedule
  • New patients
  • Referral sources
  • Identify emergency time
  • Dentistry diagnosed/untreated
  • Last date of continuous care appointment
  • Necessary X-rays
  • Management problems
  • Financial problems

Let’s move into the new-patient experience. When new patients arrive at your practice, welcome them with open arms. Stand up, shake their hand, and introduce yourself. Make them feel comfortable with relaxed, open conversation. Next, conduct your initial interview in a private space. You can ask:

  • What are your goals for your mouth, your teeth, and your smile?
  • What are your expectations for me?

Now, it’s on to the treatment room. Let the patient know exactly what you’re doing. Go step-by-step and describe what tools you are using and what is taking place. Education makes patients feel at ease and comfortable. Then, invite your new patient back for a consultation.

Example: I need some time to review the data from today’s evaluation and design a treatment plan that is best for you. Then, I’d like to invite you back to the office in a week or two so that we can sit down together, uninterrupted, to review my recommendations. Would that be acceptable to you?

Next, make sure to walk the patient to the treatment coordinator. Here are some the responsibilities of the treatment coordinator:

  • Participate in the new-patient experience
  • Assist the doctor in the treatment planning
  • Join the doctor for the consultation
  • Make a financial arrangement
  • Follow up

The treatment coordinator plays an important role in your practice and helps you with an effective close. Some closing questions that can help you move forward with treatments include:

  • Do you see any reason why we shouldn’t go ahead and schedule your first appointment?
  • Does this treatment plan work for you?
  • Do you need more information, or have I told you enough to make your decision?

A main part of the close is setting up and discussing financial arrangements. Be sure to have your patients sign and date the financial agreement form that covers liabilities, insurance, and fees. You can offer a variety of choices including third-party financing options, making sure to collect all payments before the end of the treatment. Once financial arrangements have been made, schedule the first appointment.

In conclusion, the success of your relationships, your practice, and your career hinge on your ability to communicate effectively. Encourage your team to effectively communicate with patients and to do their best every day.

Listen to the complimentary webinar recording of Kathleen on a team approach to case acceptance by clicking here.

Author bio
Kathleen O’Donnell is vice president of coaching at Jameson Management, Inc., and has worked in the dental industry for more than 20 years. Kathleen specializes in executive coaching, team building, and all aspects of practice management, particularlycollections, insurance, scheduling, and verbal skills. For more information, visit