The Secrets of Helping Your Patients Pay
By Tanya Bailey
When was the last time you heard your treatment coordinator say the patient didn’t schedule because the patient didn’t have the money or they had to go home and think about it? If you’re like most practices it was probably yesterday. In fact, when you have team meetings, there is likely a lot of discussion centered on the perceived obstacle of money. Is it really true that your patients don’t have the money or is it more likely that it is just the path of least resistance? When the hurdle is money, do we move on to the next patient and hope they have saved up some money for their dental treatment?
Is your focus on the clinical problem? Is your case presentation built around pointing out the clinical condition and then trying to persuade or educate them into acceptance? If you answered yes to one or both of those questions, then read on and see how you can hear YES more often and unlock the safe to your patients financial acceptance of your treatment plans.
Getting the “yes” to treatment, scheduling the appointment, and having great financial arrangements is a team affair and NOT just the job of the financial coordinator. It starts in the back with yourself and your clinical team. Here are the 7 steps to creating a solid financial arrangement that will increase production.
1) The M&M
First and foremost is finding out what matters most to your patients. What matters most isn’t what you’re going to do to their teeth. Rather, it is the day-to-day, long-term health benefits of fixing their dental problems. In essence, what matters most is their “why.” When you identify what motivates your patient rather than trying to motivate them yourself, you create a stronger relationship of trust and can now base all of your treatment recommendations on their why instead of your surface level clinical why.
Once you know their why, it is necessary to attach a sense of urgency to the reasoning. By expressing your concern with clear statements like: “I’m very concerned about…. ” or “I’m not comfortable with….”, you show concern for the condition and are now set up to find out how concerned your patient truly is.
With the appropriate degree of urgency, it is now time to recommend a clear course of action. Remember, as the expert, your role is to give expert advice and recommendations for treatment. For example, “I strongly recommend……….”, is the best way to create a clear understanding of your projected treatment plan and reemphasize urgency to your patient.
4) Close Treatment
All to often, it is left up to the financial coordinator to navigate the spectrum of treatment options, which will leave the patient feeling confused and uncertain. “How soon do you want to get started?” or “What’s standing in your way of moving forward?” are both great closing questions to close your clinical case presentation.
Now we are at step 5 for financial arrangements and we haven’t even introduced the financial coordinator yet! You can see that a great financial arrangement starts in the back!
5) Linking Your Patient
As you know, things seem to get lost when going from the back to the front of the office. I often refer to this as the Bermuda Triangle of dentistry. The way to close this gap is to link your patient from the clinical team to the administrative team. Don’t let your patient out of your sight until you have made this link. To do this, physically walk your patient over to the next team member in charge and share the important details so they don’t have to make the patients repeat themselves. This should include details like who, what, when, where, and most importantly, WHY (the M&M=what matters most, their motivator)!
6) Financial Coordinator Toolbox
Having the best tools in your toolbox is important for success. Just like having the right clinical supplies and equipment prepares you to do great dentistry, having the right financial tools in place is crucial too. The following 6 tools are what I highly recommend that each Financial Coordinator has on hand:
- Clearly written financial guidelines for your patients outlining what your payment options are and how you handle insurance assignment of benefits.
- Clear internal protocols for financial options and payment terms.
- A private area for financial presentation. NEVER present financial arrangements over the front desk. This can be uncomfortable for your patients, and you want to show that you respect their right to confidentiality. A private area can be a consultation room, chair side or anywhere you can sit knee-to-knee and eye-to-eye to talk to your patient.
- A nice pen with your practice logo printed on the side. To often we see chewed up pens from other companies! Something this small can set a clear impression: a clean pen= a clean practice.
- Several third party options such as Care Credit, Citi Bank, Lending Club or any other bank.
- A financial form dedicated to disclosing financial options and getting a financial commitment.
7) Final Presentation
There is a simple formula for success at presenting rock solid financial arrangements:
- Review the benefit (what matters most/the WHY) to the patient.
- Review the treatment plan to make sure that the patient clearly understands it and is still in agreement to the plan.
- Introduce the fee on a financial agreement form. Do not use a treatment plan print out from your practice management software.
- Explore payment options. Make sure to have several ways for your patients to pay.
- Finalize the commitment with either payment in full, third party financing or a down payment if you are doing a short term in office payment plan.
With these 7 steps in place you are now ready to increase your financial case acceptance and STOP hearing “they didn’t schedule because they didn’t have the money” from your team and START hearing YES MORE OFTEN!