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How To Get Patients To Schedule More Treatment

By Planet DDS
December 1, 2020

Evaluate these 3 key areas to add thousands to your bottom line

By Dr. Greg Grillo

When we tell our patients they need a porcelain onlay replacing the palatal cusp on #4, we expect that they’ll walk to the front and schedule. But often patients check out without making another appointment and then life gets in the way. Our teams frequently hears:

  • “I’ll call you after I check my calendar.”
  • “I need to wait for my tax refund.”
  • I’m really busy with the kids. I’ll schedule next month.”

There are many valid reasons why people leave our offices with unscheduled treatment in their mouths. Good intentions often get lost in hectic lifestyles, and a long list of demands jostle for part of a family’s budget. But patients don’t always understand the value of our recommendations. Unless they’re in pain, they may not feel motivated to act today. If they’re considering elective care to enhance their smile, they may justify delaying until a “better time.”

Yet if patients don’t understand the value, maybe we’ve failed to educate and motivate them. As skilled technicians, that’s hard to admit. But here’s the problem:

When we step in to perform a hygiene exam, we may have 5 minutes or less to say hello, ask about their kids, their concerns, and review the hygienist’s findings.

Our patients trust us, but we’re trying to lead them to a big decision in a short span.

We’re asking patients to make a buying decision when we present treatment to them. We may see it as a healthcare decision, but the consumer mindset usually takes over. They start weighing, justifying, and procrastinating as they do for many financial decisions. We’re now trying to help them move from initial awareness to purchase in seconds. And frankly, most of us don’t have the refined skills to turn clinical findings into a marketing decision that quickly. But we can’t beat ourselves up. Business Wire found that 88% of all purchasing decisions occur at home, and 89% of those decisions are made by consulting with others.

Beating the Stats Is Asking a Lot From Clinicians

Clinical dentistry demands the majority of our energy, and most of us don’t like to sell. But that’s precisely what we’re doing when we present treatment to our patients. And the statistics suggest we need help nudging our patients along. The American Dental Association reports that the average practice has $500,000 to $1 million worth of unscheduled treatment in their charts! Any amount indicates a significant opportunity and reflects the challenge we face.

If most purchasing decisions take place outside our offices, how do we influence the process? What tools do we need to convert even 20% of unscheduled treatment into hours in our operatories? Consider these three areas to review and bolster up in the new year:

1.Put Yourself In The Patient’s Chair

We deal with implants, grafts, Class V resins, and apicoectomies all day long. Too often, our language reflects that familiarity. Most patients only face one bone graft or anterior bridge in their lifetimes. And they don’t want treatment; they want the benefits of treatment. As we describe obturating a fourth canal on #15, they’re wondering what’s in it for them. To help the early part of the conversion process, remember to:

  • Roleplay with family members and describe your top five most common procedures. Ask them if they understand what you’ve shared and the personal value of treatment.
  • Review your in-office tools, including intra-oral cameras and models.
  • Consider short procedure videos on your website.
  • Train your staff to educate and show patients where they can find more information on your website.

We can help our patients accept more treatment by merely refining the awareness and educational steps. We can change some of this today, and other components we can discuss with our digital support team for refinement.

2. Send Patients Home With Evidence

Patients that step out of the office without an appointment have already decided to delay further treatment. They’re likely taking some time to weigh their options and move through the buying process. Make sure they walk out with everything they need to help them. This may include:

  • A treatment plan with costs and insurance estimates.
  • Options for payment, including information about your online payment portal.
  • Information about online scheduling on your website to make planning easier.
  • Intra-oral photos or informational printouts to carry home.
  • Suggestion to visit your website for more insight on specific services.

Give your staff the tools and training to help patients move to the next step. Since our patients often discuss their appointments at home, supporting evidence and solutions help them set beneficial health priorities.

3. Nurture the Decision-Making Process

We can’t personally check in with dozens of patients every few days to see if they’re ready to proceed with their treatment plans. If we did, we’d need to make sure we follow a well-designed format that does more than just ask them to schedule. We’d want to provide thoughtful information about their specific needs, concerns, and fears for maximum effectiveness. We’d need to:

  • See exactly which patients still need to schedule, the date of their last visit, and the value of their unscheduled treatment.
  • Send patient-centric messages about their treatment with email or text for maximum effectiveness.
  • Send workflow information that explicitly supports their precise treatment needs.
  • Combine our communication with a link for easy online booking.

The consumer purchasing path looks slightly different in each setting, but the basic principles apply to dentistry. We often overlook these critical components, and patients fail to receive the care that improves their lives. Plus, if the average practice has at least 1500 active patients, managing a complex psychological process routinely takes more resources than we have.

Turn complexity into simplicity and profitability

Legwork Treatment Opportunities pulls everything together for us in one place. This powerful new feature handles many of the critical steps we’ve discussed. Legwork simplifies discovering, managing, and converting treatment into billable procedures. Their software syncs with numerous Practice Management Software (PMS) providers to calculate the total value of presented, unscheduled, and scheduled treatment to make life easier. The dashboard highlights opportunities to grow revenue and provides personalized communication tools and templates to convert and schedule treatment.

Want to learn additional tips for communicating with patients in 2021? Watch our on-demand webinar, Predictions for Touchless Dental Communications in 2021 and Beyond , where I’m on a panel alongside Dr. John Nahkla and Legwork co-Founder and co-CEO Korey Korfiatis.