Three Essentials to Maximize Case Presentation
While many aspects of dentistry change and evolve over time, finding ways to increase patient treatment acceptance remains a challenge. Effective case presentation boils down to six general steps: building relationship with patients, establishing the need for the proposed dentistry, educating and motivating patients, asking them for a commitment, having the tools and skills to facilitate beneficial financial arrangements, and, finally, scheduling the appointment for the treatment accepted.
As dental practices work to become proficient in these steps, three "game changers" are needed to help educate, motivate, and ultimately activate patients into the necessary or desired treatment.
1. Mastery of Verbal Skills
Meaningful conversation is the cornerstone of a successful patient-practice partnership, in which the practice works with its patients to identify and clarify their oral care goals and involves them throughout the discovery process, thus building a sense of trust, need, urgency, and value for the care being recommended.
This begins by asking patients the right questions and intently listening to their responses. Their verbal and nonverbal replies can reveal their care goals while also illuminating any obstacles the dentist may need to overcome when presenting recommended treatment.
This requires effective communication. To improve this skill set, presenters can role-play as a team, practicing the scenarios and verbal skills with each other again and again. Then, when they are face to face with a patient, the conversation will likely be more comfortable and natural, and "the kernels of truth" that may reveal what the patient wants most in their dental care will come to light. As it's been said, "It's not what you know; it's what you ask."
2. Patient Financing
Even with great communication skills and going above and beyond in case presentation, if the dental practice cannot help its patients find a way to finance the treatment, it is all for nothing.
According to a recent study by Synchrony Financial and CareCredit, approximately half of consumers under the age of 55 want their healthcare providers to share financing options for how to pay for their care. In fact, the same study revealed that 45% of all patients and 69% of younger patients have already used a payment plan to pay for care over time.1 A practice's mastery of its financial systems plays a crucial role in its patients' ability to move forward with treatment.
Having a treatment coordinator on the team responsible for the financial aspect of treatment is vital in this regard. Patients should be offered a variety of payment options. The more competent and confident the practice is in the presentation of the treatment and available finance options, the better.
3. Visual Aids
Psychological studies over the years have indicated that people tend to learn primarily through three methods: visual learning (what they see), auditory learning (what they hear), and kinesthetic learning (what they touch), with most people considering themselves visual learners. This supports the power of intraoral and digital photography, "before and after" case examples, and overall visual aids in patient education and case presentation.
Not enough can be said about how formidable intraoral cameras are post-presentation. When patients with diagnosed but untreated dentistry return for their regular hygiene visits, hygienists should be able to utilize this visual tool to revisit areas of concern in the patient's mouth, show and support the benefits of proceeding with treatment as well as the risks of not proceeding, and provide the doctor the opportunity to re-examine the diagnosed treatment. This approach can lead to perhaps as much as 60% percent of a practice's restorative work originating from its hygiene department. The use of intraoral cameras can greatly expand the hygienist's role in case acceptance.
By marrying the consistent, effective use photography with strengthened verbal skills, the dental team can better enable patients to both see and hear their need for treatment and make the best decisions for their care. It takes time to become proficient in both preparing for and making a presentation, so time must be allotted to working at it.
In the end, the dental team should be building foundational pillars of relationship and understanding with its patients. The team should continuously work on verbal skills; maximize the financial options available to patients, especially patient financing; and consistently use photography to show patients their oral status. Together, the use of these tools and skills can help patients understand their need and ultimately receive the necessary care.
About the Author
Co-Owner, The Jameson Group (jmsn.com), a dental management, marketing, and hygiene coaching firm
1. CareCredit, CWH Advisors Patient Pay Survey Finds Majority of Patients Would Consider Financing Options to Pay Healthcare Costs. March 24, 2021. https://www.synchrony.com/carecredit-cwh-advisors-patient-pay-survey.html. Accessed April 3, 2021.