Estimated reading time: 5 minutes
Addressing the cost of a dental treatment is a constant challenge that many practices face. It is also one of the most important dialogues that can make or break the patient experience.
Since most dentists feel awkward discussing treatment costs and payment options for fear of sounding like a salesperson, they often leave this duty to the front office coordinators. But when a patient completes a treatment and is hit with a bill they weren’t expecting, it becomes an uncomfortable situation for both the patient and front desk staff.
So how do you manage this delicate conversation?
- Make it a team effort.
Both clinicians and the front office team should be in a position to discuss financial arrangements and payment.
To better understand this, let’s walk through the patient journey and examine the touchpoints where the price conversation is commonly raised.
The New Patient Enquiry over the phone.
A commonly asked question that every front office coordinator has to deal with is, “How much will it cost?” - particularly from 'telephone shoppers' calling around.
In our Best Practice Phone Skills training, we always encourage the team to provide a range bracket when a patient’s enquiry is price-driven. Be sure to emphasise that each patient’s case is subjective to the existing condition that they may have, which can only be determined when they come in to see the dentist. You may then inform the prospective patient of the various payment options that your practice offers to help alleviate their concerns.
It is important that the entire front office team is equipped and trained to handle such conversations. This is to ensure that each team member says the same thing over the phone to avoid confusion or any risks of having disgruntled new patients on the day of their appointment.
The New Patient Exam
This is a critical phase in your patient’s journey. There is no point in discussing price and payment options if your patient doesn’t trust you and above all else, understand the state of their oral health.
In Primespeak, we emphasise the need for clinicians to “BED” the patient in the new patient exam – Build trust, Expose conditions in the patient’s mouth, and Deepen the patient’s concern around and awareness of the damaging consequences of the existing conditions.
Once the patient has been “bed”-ed, it allows for a more natural conversation about treatment options and price. This is because the conversation then becomes focused on what is best for the patient’s oral health, rather than being purely price-driven.
As the patient is walked through each treatment option, the dentist should be able to talk about treatment costs along with the pros and cons of each option.
Once the patient decides on a treatment, the dentist should always ask if the patient would like to explore specific payment options before they leave the room. This helps pre-empt any patients who may feel uncomfortable or embarrassed about discussing it at the front desk, for fear of other people listening in.
In some practices, the dentist can also introduce them personally to the Treatment Plan Coordinators or Practice Managers who are equipped to have that conversation. Regardless of who they are handing the patient over to, the dentist should briefly share the discussion that was had, so that the conversation around payment or any financial arrangements can be continued seamlessly.
By approaching the subject of price through the touchpoints of your patient’s journey, you are able to manage the situation and their expectations in a delicate and respectful manner. This will not only improve the morale of your front desk team; it also takes away the stress of dealing with an upset patient.
Better still, you’ll likely see the same patient walking through the doors again.