Your dental practice is your most valuable asset. However, is its value everything you’d hoped and worked so hard for? As you consider new and exciting opportunities presented by adding an associate, selling your practice, or partnering with a Dental Service Organization (DSO), the real value of your practice becomes significantly important. According to The Dental Transitions Group—experienced transition partners—if it’s not where it needs to be, there are two key ways to increase the value of your practice:
- Aggressively market the practice and its service offerings. This can help increase annual revenue, as well as the number of patients seen per month. However, the latter will only yield a noteworthy increase in revenue if steps are taken to bolster case acceptance of recommended treatments.
- Get patients to say YES! As many dentists and their team members know, getting a patient to “YES!” is not as simple as presenting the diagnosis, explaining some clinical information, and discussing payment options. Instead, everything that’s said and done during every patient encounter and interaction—from appointment reminders to how they’re checked in, from escorting them into an operatory and/or transferring them from team member to dentist—influences a patient’s trust in the practice and willingness to accept and undergo treatment.
Therefore, knowing what to do, when, and how, and understanding how all of that is perceived by the patient, is essential to increasing case acceptance. Following the recommendations below can help you and your team maximize patient case presentations.
- Explain and visualize the diagnosis. Explain the diagnosis in terms of what’s known about the patient and his/her oral health priorities, smile perception, and goals. Dentists and their teams should use visual aids—such as digital before and after photographs of the patient’s condition, virtual wax-ups, or models—so that the patient can understand that the problems are significant, and also see that the dentist and staff know what matters to them.
- Incorporate digital technology. There’s also a WOW! factor when using digital technology to present the diagnosis, and later when explaining the treatment plan. Digital photography and intraoral scans not only document a patient’s preoperative status, but when images are taken and/or enlarged instantaneously, the details of the patient’s condition can be magnified to allow better illustration of the problem and significance of the treatment that’s being recommended.
- Focus on the conditions that require treatment. Patients may perceive what they’ve heard as worse than they thought (remember: they may not have expected anything to be wrong), so it’s important to focus on their condition, why they require treatment, and the treatment options. Ask the patient what questions they have, and answer them as thoroughly as possible, yet with easy-to-understand explanations.
- Present the treatment plan in a logical way. When discussing “how” the condition can be treated—in other words, presenting the treatment plan—it’s important that the information be delivered in a logical way, without overly clinical or technical terminology that might overwhelm or, even worse, frighten the patient. Rather, the benefits of the treatment for the patient—and how the treatment can be phased or sequenced to meet their needs—should be emphasized. This is a good time to encourage feedback from the patient by asking open-ended questions, such as: How do you feel about the treatment plan? What questions do you have about the treatment? How would you like to proceed with treating this condition?
It’s also beneficial to provide the patient with written documentation detailing their diagnosis and outlining the treatment plan, along with photographs that reinforce the anticipated outcome and treatment benefits, so they can review with family and friends.
- Separate fee payment discussions from clinical treatment discussions. Understandably, discussing treatment fees could be uncomfortable for the patient, if not the clinical team members themselves; the cost involved often affects the patient’s decision to undergo treatment. Therefore, many dental practice consultants recommend that discussions about payments and fees be handled separately from conversations about oral health. A financial and/or treatment coordinator is most often the person to review treatment fees with the patient, as well as at least two or three payment options, estimated insurance coverage, and out-of-pocket expenses. Everything should be presented in writing so that the patient can review in detail and decide how to best proceed with treatment.
Although other factors contribute to the overall value of your practice (for example, The Dental Transitions Group uses a real-world valuation approach), annual practice revenue from the completion of accepted treatment plans is a significant consideration. Therefore, it is incumbent upon you and your team to ensure that patients have all the tools they need to make confident, informed, and comfortable decisions about the treatment plans you’ve presented to help them achieve and maintain their oral health. When more patients see the value in the proposed treatment and say “YES!”, the more likely they are to refer you to family and friends, and the more valuable your practice becomes.