Make dental patients your priority, not their insurance

Answering the phone in the dental practice can make or break someone scheduling an appointment. Do not ask about someone's insurance immediately. Take just a few minutes to find out about the person. When they figure out they are more important than their insurance, they will appreciate your dental practice.

Content Dam Diq Online Articles 2016 02 Connect With Patients 1

I talk with dental teams around the country, and I often hear that the biggest issue for them is that they don’t have enough new patients. When I ask them questions about this problem, I find out that dental teams are viewing patients as very insurance-driven. Staff tell me they do the best they can to try to get new patients to schedule on the first phone call, but it seems they’re always just looking for offices that take their insurance. I understand this is very frustrating for the dental staff. I feel frustrated when I hear their stories, too, but for a very different reason.

I’ve conducted hundreds of mystery calls to dental practices the past 10 years. Here’s what happens on a typical call. The dental team member answers the phone by thanking me for calling the office. If the person is halfway decent on the phones, he or she might ask me my name and how I heard about the practice. So far, so good, right? However, what do you think is usually the next question out of their mouths?

You guessed it. “Do you have insurance?”

Now, I understand that verifying benefits prior to a patient’s arrival is important for many dental practices, and it makes sense to have this as part of the protocol. However, why is it necessary to ask this information on the front end of the initial phone call? What message is that giving to potential new patients about how we value insurance?

It’s letting them know before they even step in the door that the office prioritizes insurance more than patients’ individual needs. When you ask about insurance before you ask personal questions, such as why they’re calling, how you can help them, what dental issues they’re having, or anything else about them as a person, you’re telling them their insurance is more important than them.

Is that true? It shouldn’t be. People should be the focus. It should not matter what insurance they have.

I know that there are staff who feel like this—“Why waste my time getting to know someone on the phone when we might not even take their insurance?” That’s a misdirected philosophy that severely limits the office in getting more new patients. Really, how long does it take to get to know someone on the other end of the phone? Two, three, or maybe even four minutes? That four minutes you spend with someone shows the person calling that they’re valued by the office, long before the discussion of insurance comes up.

ALSO BY LAURA HATCH:One single issue divides the front and back dental office teams
Front office can help remove 'just a cleaning' image from the minds of dental patients

By taking the time at the beginning of calls to really talk to people, instead of just being a data collections clerk that focuses on insurance, your dental practice is sure to increase the number of new patients who schedule. It’s important to remember that we’re in the people business, not the insurance business.

Don’t get me wrong. I know we need to work with people’s insurance and verify benefits. But whether a person has insurance or not, are they not a person? Do we not want to try to care for them? Do they not need a great dentist like the one in your office?

If you answer the phone with that positive attitude each and every time, you will increase your new patients and start a relationship with them that won’t be focused only on insurance. Remember: you don’t work for the insurance company; you work for the patient. Let people feel that way from the first moment they call your office.

This article first appeared in Dental Assisting Digest. To receive enlightening and helpful articles for assistants and office managers in this monthly e-newsletter, visit dentistryiq.com/subscribe.

Laura Hatch is the founder of Front Office Rocks, a leader in online front office training. Laura has worked with her husband, Dr. Hatch, to start and grow two extremely successful dental practices (one in Baltimore and one in San Diego) to million dollar, fee-for-services offices that focus on exceptional customer service and average 80 new patients per month. As the leading authority on dental front office training, Laura has developed training methods that consist of established ideas and practical training that can be easily implemented in any office. She can be reached at Laura@FrontOfficeRocks.com.

More in Patient Relationships