February 2016
Volume 12, Issue 2

Removing a Barrier to Recommended Care

How patient financing can facilitate treatment

Bete Johnson

Almost every day dental teams across the country hear patients say, “I want to think about it,” “I need to talk it over with my spouse,” or something similar. This is often patients’ way of saying, “I’m not committed to the dentistry you’ve recommended,” “I’m not comfortable making this decision yet,” or “I’m not prepared for this cost.” They leave the practice to research treatment, cost, or financing to determine if they should and can get the care recommended.

A recent study, “Patients’ Path to Dental Care Purchases Study,” provides insights that can help dentists and their teams understand patients’ decision-making process and how to help more patients accept needed dentistry without delay.

Patients’ Decision-Making Process is Lengthy and Complex

The study surveyed patients who had made, or were planning to make, a dental care purchase that required an out-of-pocket investment. Because needed dentistry was often introduced to patients during a practice visit, the initial treatment and fee discussion was critical. The majority of patients looked to their dentist and team to provide information on treatment and financial solutions that would help them make a decision.

Patients who have had unanswered questions and unspoken barriers to care may leave the practice to seek additional input and advice online and from family and friends. Of those patients who conduct research online, 51% went to a medical advice website, 46% to a practice’s website, and 38% used websites that compare or provide ratings/reviews of providers.

Have comprehensive information on the practice website and social media sites to help patients during their information search and decision-making process. It’s important that your website be an accurate and up-to-date reflection of your practice with no disconnect between what patients see online and in person. For example, keep team photos up to date and don’t have a photo of the doctor that’s 2 decades old even if it’s his or her favorite. Deliver an exceptional patient experience that results in positive reviews and proactively manage the practice’s online reviews and reputation so they accurately reflect the quality of care your team provides.

Cost is a Key Barrier to Care

Not surprisingly, the study found cost of care was a key component of the decision-making process, with more patients (67%) researching cost and finances than treatment (58%). Some patients may be reluctant to discuss their cost concerns. Proactively providing a variety of payment options, including a financing solution, during that critical, initial fee discussion can help patients see how to fit care into their budget.

According to the study, 47% of people sur­veyed who were not CareCredit cardholders said they would consider financing if it enabled them to receive care right away. Financing with the CareCredit credit card became more attractive to patients as the cost of care increased, with 32% of all respondents indicating that are likely or extremely likely to apply for or use CareCredit for dental fees of only $200, increasing to 49% for fees of $1,000.

Among CareCredit cardholders who participated in the study, 29% indicated they would have gone to a different provider and 39% would have chosen not to have the dentistry done if CareCredit had not been available.

Delaying needed dentistry can result in additional disease, time, pain, and cost. Dental teams can help patients by providing the information and solutions they need to make confident, informed decisions.

CareCredit is making the complete “Patients’ Decision Path to Purchase Dental Care Study” available to Inside Dentistry readers. To request a copy contact your Practice Development Team by calling 800-859-9975, option 1, then 6. Not yet enrolled? Call 866-246-6401.

About the Author

Bete Johnson, a 20-year sales, marketing, and practice management veteran, is vice president of sales for CareCredit. She has been a core part of the CareCredit team for more than 14 years and was recognized as one of the “Top Twenty-Five Women in Dentistry.” Through her engagement with dental professionals including consultants, associations, practices, and dental suppliers, Johnson provides the opportunity to network and create new relationships that benefit the dental profession.

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