How to Talk About Money with Dental Patients
Written By: Tracy Civick
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Do you ever wish your treatment coordinator knew how to talk about money with dental patients with a bit more confidence? Do you feel frustrated that you diagnosed, educated, and prepped the patient to accept treatment and then the financial coordinator meets you in the hall to say that the patient wants to “think about it and will call us to schedule.” It’s deflating!
Money should never be the reason why patients don’t accept treatment. A medical patient doesn’t tell the hospital, “I think I’ll wait a bit to take care of my gallbladder.” No! So why do dental patients say that they will “call to schedule in a few weeks” when the dentist says they have excessive decay that is spreading?
There are a few rules when talking to dental patients about money.
Rule 1: The clinical team, including the doctor, should never discuss finances with patients. The standard answer to the patient’s questions can always be, “Oh gosh, that is Susie’s department up front. I wouldn’t even begin to know how to answer that question. As soon as I finish polishing you, Susie is going to come in and go over all the financial details of your treatment.”
Rule 2: Always ask the treatment coordinator to discuss money either in the operatory or in a consult room. Never at check out.
If there is a possibility of same day treatment, ask the treatment coordinator to come to the operatory to go over finances and sign consents. Do not un-bib the patient. Susie, the treatment coordinator, should come in the room and immediately smile and say hello to the patient. Then, Susie sits to be eye level with the patient and says, “Doctor asked me to discuss your specific treatment costs. Is that okay with you?” Always ask permission to discuss money. Once the patient says, “Sure” proceed to explain the fees. “The total cost for the treatment today is $2500. We estimate that insurance will take care of $1500. We will collect the remaining $1000 from you today at check out, file the claim, and once payment is received, we will let you know if anything else is owed.”
If you will schedule the treatment for a later date, the clinical team member should escort the patient to the consult room and offer something to drink. The treatment coordinator should walk in, smile, introduce themselves, and sit to be eye level with the patient. Use the same verbiage as above but tweak the end to say “on the day of treatment we will collect $1000.”
The key to presenting treatment is to be careful how you explain the insurance portion. Never guarantee anything or take responsibility for the patient’s policy. If the treatment is on a posterior tooth and the policy has an alternate benefit clause, increase the out of pocket by 15% and then say to the patient, “Your specific policy does have some language in it stating that on back teeth they may pay a bit less. Were you aware of that when you signed it? So, on the day of treatment we will collect $1000, we will bill the entire claim to insurance, but I don’t want you to be surprised if they apply the alternate benefit in which case you may owe a bit more. If and when that happens, we’ll call you and will be able to collect the balance over the phone.”
Rule 3: Don’t project your limiting money beliefs on to the patient. Just because the treatment coordinator may not be able to pay $1000 on the spot for treatment, doesn’t mean that the patient can’t. On the other hand, be respectful. If paying $1000 wouldn’t be a problem for the treatment coordinator, respect that it may be a big deal to the patient. Exercise patience and discuss finance options with the patient. Regardless of how you feel about money, do not allow those thoughts to direct your conversation or mindset when talking to patients about money. Instead, go in to present treatment knowing that this treatment will help bring them back to oral health and it’s in their best interest to get it taken care of immediately. Always have a few payment options to suggest in case money is an issue.
I can’t count how many times a treatment coordinator has been asked to present a $10,000 treatment plan and said, “Holy cow… you want me to just walk in there and ask for $10,000?” Of course! You have no idea how the patient will react. Either they will sign and schedule or they will hesitate and you can present finance options. Don’t allow your limiting beliefs to discourage a patient from accepting treatment.
Bottom line is to talk about money with confidence, listen to the patient’s concerns and present options.
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About the Author…
Tracy Civick is a nationally recognized speaker, coach, and author who focuses on motivating dental front office teams to grow practice revenue and get a better handle on the daily dental practice front office tasks. Her memberships include The Academy of Dental Management Consultants and AADOM, Academy of Dental Office Managers.