The Value of a Treatment Coordinator in Dental Practice
Roger P. Levin, DDS
The treatment coordinator (TC) often can be the most critical team member in helping to advance dental practice productivity. In fact, the singular objective of the TC is to help a patient through a process resulting in the acceptance of treatment. Surprisingly, most practices don't have a TC. For those that do, the TC typically has a wide range of job responsibilities and is crucial to the practice achieving results. Whether TCs work part- or full-time, they can provide a distinct advantage to a dental practice, contributing greatly to its growth and success. A TC can help a practice in the following ways:
The first patient call-The first step of case presentation is the first new patient phone call. This call is an opportunity to greet the patient, make an appointment, and gather important information. However, a well-trained TC understands that the first new patient phone call must go beyond these bare essentials and create a sense of value and confidence in the practice. This requires scripting, role playing, and training for the front desk staff who are the first individuals to communicate with a potential new patient. The TC should work with the front desk staff to establish a specific protocol for these interactions. This is especially important in light of COVID-19, as not all new patient callers are looking to make appointments but may be exploring or gathering information to determine if they will schedule. New protocols and scripting should include an explanation of the practice's safety procedures and an overview of financial options for treatment.
Case presentation-A TC can save valuable time for dentists by handling all matters pertaining to education, frequently asked questions, general information, financial presentation, and scheduling for new patients. Dentists typically may spend 10 to 60 minutes meeting with each patient and presenting cases. While not eliminating the dentist's role entirely, a well-trained TC can reduce the time dentists spend presenting treatment, freeing up their time for more production. The TC may be better able to give the time and attention needed to enhance relationships with patients and deliver optimal customer service without feeling rushed. Frequently, dentists are running late prior to case presentations, which may be viewed negatively by the patient. Lateness can be avoided with a competent TC.
Branding-The TC has the opportunity to promote the brands of both the practice and the dentist before the dentist's portion of the case presentation. This can be done through building relationship, providing clinical information, and answering questions. TCs should strive to understand each patient's motivating factors, concerns, objections, and any other pertinent information. The TC should brief dentists before they meet with the patients so they understand the best way to communicate with each patient.
Financial options-In the wake of COVID-19, financial options have become very important to patients. Once the dentist has completed his or her part of the case presentation, the TC should review financial options with the patient and identify one that will work. These options should include a courtesy discount for upfront payment, payment plans, and patient financing. It is also helpful to discuss multiple financial options with new patients in their first phone call. This can help set the stage for the TC who will be reviewing those options with the patient. Offering interest-free financing can be an effective strategy and may help increase case acceptance.
Follow-up-During difficult economic times, patients may be even more reluctant to commit to treatment and may first want to talk to a spouse or take time to evaluate their financial capability. This makes follow-up especially vital. The TC should establish a system, such as contacting patients at 1-week intervals, to help facilitate the patient's decision making. Engaging in consistent follow-up generally raises close rates and can boost a practice's income significantly.
Generally speaking, most dentists do not have a sales background or training in interpersonal sales skills. This is where a well-trained TC comes in. Acting, in essence, as a professional salesperson, a TC's ultimate objective is to have a patient accept recommended treatment. This is done through building strong patient relationships, presenting information in a positive and motivating manner, effectively answering questions and addressing objections, and deftly presenting financial options. The TC also can create simple reports on daily and monthly performance and review them with the dentist periodically. This helps identify positive or negative trends regarding the TC process and performance and allows for modifications to be made.
For maximum success, TCs must be highly trained, well-skilled, and resilient. Proper training and mentoring does not occur overnight; it requires a comprehensive approach that includes education, observing the TC with patients, and offering critical feedback. Done right, the treatment coordinator position can add tremendous value to a practice.
About the Author
Roger P. Levin, DDS
CEO and Founder, Levin Group, Inc. (levingroup.com), a practice management consulting firm that has worked with more than 30,000 dental practices