Tuesday Tip from Pride Institute: Saying “yes” when the answer is “no”
Do not automatically assume patients will not visit your office if you do not accept their insurance. Train front office team members to engate patients who inquire about insurance in a discussion about the benefits of treatment at your office.
While working with clients at the beginning of the year to assemble their fiscal Annual Plan, I’m still shocked at how much is being written off to insurance affiliations. With overhead often running in the 60% range and insurance write-offs often in the 30% range, there’s little room for profit. Although some offices can capitalize on being members of many PPO plans, the majority of dental practices simply cannot operate profitably by accepting these plans.
So what to do with potential patients who call seeking your services, and the first question out of their mouths is, “Do you accept my insurance?” In other words, how do you say “yes” to these patients when the answer is “no”?
This opportunity presents itself in the first contact the patient has with the practice – the phone call. Front desk team members must be well rehearsed in the verbal skills needed to build a relationship with patients. They should answer questions enthusiastically and honestly while leading a perspective patient to the conclusion they want to come to your office (whether you’re a “preferred provider” or not).
When it comes to the insurance question, the team member should stay positive. Never start with “no, we’re not a preferred provider, but…” Rather, tell the patient how your office handles their dental benefits by telling them what you do, not what you do not do. Say something like, “I’m so glad you asked that. We work with other patients who were also initially concerned about what it would mean to go to an out-of-network dentist. What they found was that by choosing us, the fee difference between in-network dentists and our office was surprisingly small, while the difference in the quality of their experience was great. Our dentist decided that we would never compromise a patient’s treatment decisions and options because of insurance limits. I would be happy to do a benefits check and see what it would mean for you to come to us.”
Also, the team member should stay in control of the conversation. “In order to do that, let me ask you a few more questions.” The team member should gather the information needed from the patient, hopefully by following a telephone scripted template to guide the conversation.
Finally, the team member should always expect to make an appointment. “Mrs. Jones, the next step is to schedule an appointment with us so Dr. Smith can meet with you and provide you with a comprehensive evaluation of your needs. I have this Thursday at 2 p.m. or next Wednesday at 3 p.m. Which one works best for you?”
Experiencing this conversation with your front office team at the outset sets the stage for more patients to experience the difference offered by your practice. A goal in the 90th percentile of inquiries converted to appointments should be attainable. The next goal is to offer a good new patient experience so that relationships can be built. A practice that relies on loyal patients who appreciate your care and customer service will go a long way in preventing you from having to be part of benefit plans that benefit only the profitability of insurance carriers, not you or your patients.
For more information on the process of elimination of managed care in your practice, and on verbal skills to assist team members in this process, contact Pride Institute. We have effective and proven ways to assist in increasing your profitability and allowing you to build the practice you always envisioned.