Effective case presentation and acceptance in the dental practice

In today’s dental market, patients have more choices than ever before. High expectations and an influx of information means competition is fierce, leading to a marked shift in how practice owners attract and retain patients.

Long gone are the days when patients chose their dentist based on static provider directories, word-of-mouth or the Yellow Pages. Today, consumers are highly connected and able to research online reviews, ratings and guides prior to making a dental or health care choice.

The same can be said of case acceptance. With so many choices, patients no longer have to rely solely on their dentist’s recommendation to agree to treatment. They now have a near-endless supply of information at their fingertips as well as options for second opinions.

To meet the needs of the changing consumer, dentists must employ new strategies. In the course of advising practices here in California, I see successful dentists going above and beyond to not only meet but to exceed patient expectations. At TDSC, we work to make customer service front-and-center in our member-clients’ business models.

Forging relationships with patients is paramount to building trust, and trust is ultimately the key to case acceptance. But it goes beyond the individual dentist’s relationship with the patient; rather, the entire dental team must be on board for this strategy to succeed. If a team doesn’t understand the purpose of the practice’s case acceptance strategy, it is less likely to give the approach its all.

Practice owners must ensure each member of the dental team is striving toward the same goals. I recommend each team starts the workday with a “huddle” to go over the prior day’s successes and prepare for the new day ahead. This is a good opportunity to reiterate shared purpose, the importance of each team member’s unique contribution and create a game plan for the day.

Building trust can’t just rely on a one-time interaction. It begins with the very first phone call and follows through clinical evaluation, financial discussion and scheduling treatment. Every step of the way, staff should be focused on connecting with the patient and building rapport.

Simple techniques such as answering the phone with a smile, greeting the patient by name or inquiring about a patient’s family can go a long way in forming strong relationships. Each staff member should listen to the patient and tailor the interaction to the patient’s unique needs. For example, offering a same-day appointment to a patient who is busy at work, or speaking in a calm and reassuring manner with a patient who experiences dental anxiety, strengthens the practice-patient relationship. It’s the relational approach rather than the procedural approach that sets the stage for a patient’s trust.

Patients are more likely to accept the costs associated with their treatment plan if they understand the immediate and long-term benefits to their oral and overall health. Offering several financial options utilizing available resources (e.g., dental plan benefits, third-party financing, etc.) to offset the patient’s out-of-pocket expense may make case acceptance more likely. If the patient still declines treatment, staff should accept the decision without pressuring the patient and simply schedule the next hygiene appointment. Getting the patient back in the office increases the likelihood that he or she will eventually obtain the necessary treatment.

Educating patients about the importance of proceeding with the proposed treatment plan creates an environment of trust between the dentist and the patient, reducing the need to resort to salesmanship. The reality is that case acceptance is about improved oral health outcomes for the patient.

Author Ashlee Adams is a strategic counselor at The Dentists Service Company.

The Dentists Service Company specializes in group purchasing and practice management services, helping dentists practice on their own terms through supply savings and dedicated marketing, human resources and practice advising expertise. Learn more at tdsc.com.

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