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Inside Dentistry
October 2016
Volume 12, Issue 10

Removing Financial Barriers for Patients

10 secrets to increasing treatment acceptance

Lois Banta

Virtually every dental practice has heard its patients exclaim something similar to: “It’s how much?” “Can I make payments?” “I can’t afford it!” “I only want what my insurance covers.” These types of responses usually do not bode well when it comes to treatment acceptance. Here are 10 keys to removing financial barriers to help patients accept treatment:

1. Discuss Financial Arrangements Early

The new-patient phone call is the first opportunity to make a good impression—especially when discussing “money.” Patients often inquire if the practice takes their insurance or accepts monthly payments even before giving their name. This is a crucial stage of the conversation and where many positive discussions turn negative. Achieve a successful outcome using these guidelines:

• “What questions can I answer for you about our flexible financial payment options?”
• “Thank you for asking if we accept your insurance. When you come in for your first visit, please bring a copy of your dental benefit guidelines so we can assist you in understanding your benefits.”
• “Your fee today is $1,100. We estimate your insurance will cover $500. How do you want to handle the balance? We offer flexible financial arrangements, including CareCredit®.”

After discussing fees and estimated insurance payments with patients and they have paid their estimated portion, let them know that if insurance pays less than anticipated, they will be invoiced. This removes the element of surprise and circumvents an angry patient phone call.

2. Create Signage About Financial Options

Esthetic, visual signage in the office helps patients see and understand your financial guidelines. Examples of signs are: “The design of your dental benefit plan may change how your insurance pays.” “We accept the following methods of payment: Cash, Check, Visa, MasterCard, American Express, CareCredit.”

3. Design an Internal Protocol

This written document, for internal use only, helps the dental team better understand the practice’s financial guidelines and create meaningful communication with patients. It includes guidelines such as:

• 100% of estimated patient payment portion due at time of service with a 5% courtesy if paid at scheduling of appointment.
• Two payments: half at scheduling of appointment, remaining half at first appointment.
• Six, 12, 18, and 24 months no interest or up to 60 months payments with approval with CareCredit.

4. Train Your Team in Financial Communication Skills

Have team meetings for establishing effective communication regarding financial discussions with patients. Identify where barriers for financial discussions can take place and design positive solutions. Each person on the team should participate, creating a discussion point and identifying solutions to patient financial questions.

5. Know the Dos and Don’ts

Anticipate possible objections early and identify key verbal skills to address them clearly.

• Don’t “beat around the bush.” Be direct, clear, concise, and helpful.

• Don’t ask yes/no questions.
Do ask open- ended questions, such as, “What questions can I answer for you about your estimated portion due?”

• Don’t say: “We don’t take your insurance.”
Do say: “We are happy to file a claim for you, however the design of your plan may change the amount insurance pays.”

• Don’t say: “We don’t do monthly payments.”
Do say: “We can arrange monthly payments with approved credit through our partnership with CareCredit. What questions can I answer for you about that?”

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