So why is this happening? Many dentists feel uncomfortable with the notion of 'selling', not wanting to appear pushy or overbearing when it comes to getting patients to make a commitment to treatment. In this respect, it's all about changing the way you think about these scenarios. It is not unethical to want your patients to accept the dental work that they need, in fact it is quite the opposite.
Get some help
You've probably heard the term 'treatment coordinator' being used an awful lot in recent times. This is a fairly new role that has been created for dental practices to employ someone who will help the dentist convert treatment plans into paying patients. If you don't feel comfortable discussing finances and costs with patients, you may be able to use the role of the treatment coordinator within your practice. This doesn't necessarily require hiring a new member of staff, rather it could provide an excellent incentive to promote an existing team member and expand their role. If you have someone who is exceptionally good at talking to patients in a calm and friendly manner, you can provide the clinical information about the proposed treatment while they work alongside you to answer patient queries, discuss fees, explain the extra benefits like quality of life, and help convert the treatment plan into a booked appointment.
This can leave you to do the dentistry that you enjoy and are confident with, while providing the chance for another team member to find variety within their role through promotion. This can aid team motivation, especially when they see treatments plan conversion rates increasing and more patients booking in for the dentistry you all really want to provide.
Follow it up
In many cases, the patient will want to go home with their treatment plan and discuss it with a spouse or other family member and/or friends. In this respect, you need to ensure that the information you have provided is full and clear, perhaps with advice for extra research from good online sources if they feel it is required. Your lines of communication need to be very open to ensure patients feel comfortable contacting you and can do so in a simple manner. This will help to build up a trusting relationship with the patients before the treatment begins, as they know they will then be looked after during and after their appointments.
If a patient leaves the practice without booking their treatment, follow-ups are key. It is important not to see this as 'hassling', and more of a friendly prompt instead. Again, communication and tone is vital here, you don't want the patient to feel pestered, you want them to feel cared for. This could be a great job for a friendly member of the team to take on board, spending one morning each week contacting patients who haven't taken up their treatment plans, just to touch base and see if they have any questions that need answering to help them to make a decision. Being helpful at all stages can really boost the relationship they have with the practice and sometimes it's just a little extra reassurance that is needed.
All of this is great as long as you and your team are aware of what treatment plans are still outstanding. In a dental environment it can be difficult to keep on top of open treatment plans when you have patients arriving, phone calls to attend to, and everything else that comes with the day-to-day running of the practice. If the task has been delegated to another team member it is especially important that they have easy access to the most up-to-date information about each patient and their current situation in terms of treatment.
In this respect, some practice management systems have built-in functionality that can help you and your staff see the plans that need following up. The CS R4+ practice management software from Carestream Dental can help you do all of this and more with its built-in features that use real time data to benefit your practice in numerous ways. This will allow you and your team to get a list of the patients without appointments enabling you to contact them and discuss further questions they may have and try to book them in.
Turning treatment plans into booked appointments is not a concept that all dental professionals find easy or natural but employing these tools and techniques can help boost your conversion rates and, importantly, your profits.
For more information on CS Solutions or any other products or services available from Carestream Dental,
please call 0800 169 9692 or visit www.carestreamdental.co.uk