Treatment Plan Acceptance
It’s Not “When,” It’s “Where!”
Richard H. Madow, DDS | David M. Madow, DDS
Imagine this scenario: you’re at a high-end clothing store and finally get the nerve to try on what appears to be a very expensive shirt. Apprehensively, you look at the price tag and see the shirt is $300. While this seems excessive, it looks so nice, and the material feels so great against your skin, so you decide to buy it.
When you approach the cashier, he says, “You cannot purchase this shirt unless you commit to purchasing your next 6 years worth of clothing here. That will be $8,500—yes or no?”
Preposterous as that may sound, that’s exactly how a new patient often feels when they arrive at the practice thinking they only need minor treatment and we hit them over the head with an expensive, lengthy treatment plan.
Typically, patients contact your office because they “chipped a tooth” or are “overdue for a cleaning,” and all too often they have a comprehensive treatment plan thrown at them too early in the doctor/patient relationship.
Patients need to have a high level of trust in the practice in order to undergo extensive treatment. They have to be confident that the doctor and team have their best interest in mind. Treatment plan acceptance is about doing the little things correctly instead of learning the magic phrase to make patients say yes.
The following scenario shows the biggest mistakes made in treatment plan acceptance in many dental practices:
1. The patient calls to make an appointment.
2. The first appointment involves an exam where the dentist and hygienist talk in mysterious “dental speak.” The patient is told they need a treatment plan presentation appointment and leaves the office in fear.
3. The treatment plan appointment begins with confusing dental terminology and ends with a multi-thousand dollar proposal.
4. The patient is overwhelmed and says they want to “think about it.”
5. The patient goes home and thinks, “I called for a filling and they are trying to sell me $10,000 worth of stuff I don’t understand and am not even sure that I need!”
6. You never hear from the patient again.
7. They wind up having their dental needs taken care of by another practice.
It’s not always a good idea to present comprehensive treatment immediately, include the bottom line fee, and ask for a “yes or no” answer too early in the patient relationship.
Build Trust First
Treatment plan acceptance begins the second the front desk team member picks up the phone. Remember, new patients are nervous, hesitant, and often embarrassed. Always treat them with enthusiasm and kindness.
Send a handwritten note after the first visit welcoming them to the practice. Thank the referring patient with a little gift. Give incredibly painless injections. Do postoperative night calls. Show the patient that your practice is the best they have ever experienced.
The New Patient Exam
The exam can be intimidating, especially for someone with extensive treatment needs. Involve the patient by using words they understand. Tell them what you are doing at each step. Patients should know that you are screening for oral cancer, checking their gums for “infection,” and everything else you are doing. Don’t talk over their heads when charting with your dental assistant; make sure they also know what is going on. This is called the talk-over technique, and it lets the patient know in a non-threatening way the amount of treatment you will be recommending.