February 2015
Volume 36, Issue 2

Improving Case Acceptance Rates: 6 Steps for Success

Roger P. Levin, DDS

While clinical excellence is essential, it alone will not create a successful practice in today’s dental economy. Doctors must also expertly manage the business side of dentistry, including the practice’s case acceptance rate. Case acceptance has taken on greater importance as patients demand more value for their dollars. Doctors and their teams must present treatment in a way that educates patients about its benefits and motivates them to say “yes.” The following six suggestions can help clinicians and their staff increase the practice’s case acceptance rate.

1. Make It a Team Effort

In many situations, patients only accept treatment plans if they have built a relationship with a practice and gained a sense of trust with the staff. Case presentation should not be solely the doctor’s responsibility—team members must do their part to inform and encourage patients.

For example, after speaking with the dentist, patients may seek a “second opinion” before they leave the office. They may look for validation from the hygienist, dental assistant, or other staff member that a suggested procedure is worth the time, money, and effort. An enthusiastic and knowledgeable team can reassure patients by confidently answering questions such as: Is it worth it? What results can I expect? How long has the doctor been performing these treatments?, and so on. While doctors present the case, in many instances it is staff members who actually make the difference in convincing the patient to follow through with treatment.

2. Present Ideal Treatment to Everyone

Sometimes practitioners selectively present treatment, focusing only on patients they perceive as being able to pay for the suggested services; however, what they think they know about a patient’s financial situation may be inaccurate. How people choose to spend their money is very personal and often unpredictable, so practices should present the optimal treatment every time, regardless of appearances. By offering the best plan to every patient, practices will increase their case numbers.

3. Script Every Aspect of the Case Presentation

To help patients understand the overall value of proposed treatment, doctors and staff need to provide clear answers to the
following questions:

What is the recommended procedure?

What are the benefits of the treatment?

How long will treatment take?

How much will this treatment cost?

What are the payment options?

When given in lay terms, patients find detailed information reassuring. Of course, people may have additional questions and concerns, so practices should prepare scripts that address the most common patient inquiries. It is important to remember that questions and objections are indications that patients are seriously considering treatment―not that they are preparing to reject it.

Scripting answers to common questions ensures that every patient hears a consistent message from all of the staff. A uniform message can inspire confidence in the team’s abilities and help assure patients that they are in good, capable hands.

4. Provide Financial Options

Another effective approach to improving case acceptance is to provide outside financing. A 2009 study conducted by the Academy of Dental CPAs found that the availability of outside financing increased dental visits by 62% and case acceptance by 282%.1 Outside financing is the most important payment option, because it provides another choice that can help many patients afford treatment. Patients may ask about payment plans, but they often don’t know to ask whether financing is available as well.

In many cases, patients are not considering how much they must pay for treatment, but how they pay. A reputable patient financing company, such as CareCreditSM, provides patients with a healthcare credit card. This way, patients have the option to make convenient monthly payments that help minimize the burden on their budget―a very compelling and motivating factor for patients to say “yes” to treatment.

Other options should also be made available, such as: offering a 5% discount for full payment in advance for larger cases; accepting common credit cards; and accepting half of the balance paid up front and the remainder before completion of treatment.

5. Schedule the Appointment

Practices should make every effort to schedule treatment the day it is accepted. If a patient needs more time to decide, then the front desk staff should call the patient the next morning. Many patients are indeed interested in having treatment and just need an additional prompt to make the appointment. When a staff member calls and follows appropriate scripting, there’s a greater probability that the patient will follow through and have the treatment.

6. Learn from Rejection

In spite of the dentist’s best efforts, some patients will still say “no” to treatment. Learning to handle case rejection is an important skill that must be developed. The doctor will always have future opportunities to present treatment again and do a better job educating and motivating new patients to proceed with recommended care. When a case is rejected, try to learn the reasons behind the rejection so adjustments can be made to future presentations.

Conclusion

Dentists and their teams will be in a much better position to engage with their patients when they understand how patients think about treatment. Everyone should be presented with the ideal procedure for his or her condition, and all patients should hear about the financing options that are available to help them afford care. With scripting and follow-through, practices will find that their production and profitability increase as case acceptance rates rise.

About the Author

Roger P. Levin, DDS
Chief Executive Officer, Levin Group, Owings Mills, Maryland

To learn more about how to grow a practice in the new dental economy, attend an upcoming seminar by Dr. Levin. Seminar locations and dates are available at www.levingroup.com/gpseminars.

References

1. An Analysis of the Impact of CareCredit® on Patients’ Use of Dental Services. Academy of Dental CPAs. November 2009.

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