Storms, Change, and COVID-19
As a profession, the storm we have withstood in the Coronavirus season is extraordinary. As we work through every condition that is required of us as dental practices to reopen and see patients, one area that may be overlooked at the beginning is how our patients have weathered this storm themselves, in their own lives.
We have a history of dealing with change to come out better.
I can’t help but reflect on the beginnings of Jameson. The story of Jameson starts in my father’s practice, one of Jameson’s founders, Dr. John Jameson. In his early years of practice in Oklahoma, he and every other Oklahoman found them in economic stress and strain. Practicing in a rural Oklahoma town with patients accustomed to drill, fill and bill – emergency-based dentistry, it wasn’t long before he found himself financially strained, physically exhausted, completely stressed and professionally burned out.
He knew a change needed to occur and so, with the help of my mother, Cathy Jameson, they began to clarify and pursue his ideal vision for his practice. For the rest of his career he became a trailblazer in the utilization of dental technology and provided comprehensive restorative and aesthetic dentistry for his patients up until the day he retired. To this day, if you ask him how that was possible in small-town, middle America – his answer would not be complete without recognizing patient financing as an invaluable tool for his patients to get the dentistry they needed, and wanted.
Partner with your patients.
As you partner with your patients today, it’s important that you work as hard as you can to listen intently to your patients’ goals for their dental care as well as their concerns and obstacles. If we can work with them intentionally to help find a path forward that overcomes concerns while also providing the ideal type of care for them, that is a win all the way around, wouldn’t you agree? In order to do this, we have to be proactive and embrace this piece of the patient relationship as a part of the process, not as excessive busy work. The more proactive and prepared we are in our work with our patients, the more we can maximize the tools that are readily available for them through the practice and help increase case acceptance and treatment completion across the board.
When we work with our clients, we aim to help them build a variety of financial options in their practices that everyone on the team is aware of and understands. That means the options are in place, readily available to the patients and we are comfortable with talking about them and answering any questions that may come our way. Patient financing is one of these primary options. The pros far outweigh the cons! At Jameson, we have always believed that we do not want you in the banking business. We want to leave banking to the financial experts and leave the fantastic healthcare service and dental care to you.
Maximize your tools.
Something to remember about patient financing: if you already have a company or two plugged into your practice, then why not take the time to work with their team to learn how to maximize their tools as much as possible? I am often surprised at how often business team members or doctors avoid training and touchpoints with representatives from some of the best companies in the profession to maximize this tool that is already in place in their practices. We know, based on the survey results regularly provided by the American Dental Association, that cost is the top reason patients forego or delay dental treatment. Since we know this is the case, it would be advantageous of us to introduce this tool early on to our patients so that they can decide for themselves the best way forward for their budget on how to access care.
1. Communicate consistently.
Here are some specific areas in patient communication, financing, and specifically patient financing, to consider in your treatment presentation preparation.Are you taking the time to connect and communicate with your patients? Now more than ever, the strength of our relationships with our patients is going to be important. Prioritize that important time within your appointments and phone calls with your patients to find out how they are, how they have weathered the storm, if they have questions or concerns about upcoming dental needs. These are the conversations that are going to help us navigate a way forward for our patients while also showing them that we care, that we listen and that their well-being matters to us. This creates the loyal, happy patient family that we all want. Our ideal patients are those that schedule appointments, keep appointments, accept treatment, complete treatment, stay active in the practice, and refer! The way to do that is through intentional and effective communication skills. Are you connecting with your patients? Are you getting to the heart of the matter? Are you taking the time to do so? If not, start here. Your ability to effectively communicate and listen will make all the difference in whether your practice struggles or thrives.
2. Prepare to present.
As the treatment coordinator or financial coordinator in your practice, are you fully aware of every financial option available to your patients in your practice? Do you take the steps necessary prior to presentations to have all of that information organized and prepared for your patient so that they can make the right choice for them? Disorganization, lack of preparation and understanding, lack of confidence in presenting these options – these are all common mishaps in treatment consultations and the good news is, they can all be remedied with training, practice, time and preparation. Take a step back and review where you are lacking in your skills, processes or confidence in treatment consultations and be about the business of refining and growing in these areas. You will be better for it and so will your patients.
3. Make no assumptions!
As a part of your financial responsibility conversation, it is important to leave room for the patient to decide what is best for them. In other words, beware of the dangerous habit of assuming for the sake of someone else. We cannot even pretend to know how a patient can or wishes to pay for their care. We also need to be careful of how we assume whether or not the patient can afford the care. Assumption, as Cathy Jameson says, is the lowest form of communication and is dangerous ground when it comes to pursuing and honoring the pursuit of ideal care for our patients. Our responsibility is, as John Jameson says, to present the best possible treatment for their situation, to offer them a variety of options for how to take care of the investment and then to get out of the way and give your patient the opportunity to say yes to the very best. Are you guilty of assuming for your patients? Are you guilty of picking and choosing what financial options to present to them in a treatment consultation? You may be surprised at which patients choose to utilize patient financing and which patients choose to pay in full! The key is to give them the options and to step back, listen, and let them choose.
Consider end goals for you and the patient.
If you struggle to see the benefit of patient financing in your practice for you and your patients, ask yourself, what’s in it for me and what’s in it for my patients? Remember, if the patient is discouraged to proceed by the total cost of the overall investment, patient financing is a way that helps them make lower payments that fit into their monthly financial budget. It’s also becoming more and more convenient for patients to apply.
In fact, the shift is occurring where more and more patients may already be walking into your practice with patient financing in place for themselves because they are using it at their veterinarian, their optometrist, even at the pharmacy. It works in conjunction with their dental benefits – so if you are wondering how to help with the portion of the treatment that is not covered in their plan, here is a viable option for them. It also gives you a means for collection that keeps you out of the banking business – and we are big fans of that!
We are also fans of CareCredit specifically. There are a few reasons CareCredit is our preferred financing method.
- CareCredit makes it easy to give patients one less reason to put off getting healthy.
- 10 million cardholders are looking for a doctor who accepts CareCredit.
- CareCredit does things that no other patient financing company does: they provide local representatives to offer personalized support in your area. So you have a local rep as well as a phone support rep.
- There offer a wide variety of tools and resources for your practice as well as for your clients.
- And finally, by accepting CareCredit, you’ll be listed on a Provider Locator.
5. Aim for 85% case acceptance.
If you have had patients denied after applying or if the fees are deterring you from maximizing the tool in your practice, now is the time to work with your patient financing organizations to see what options and opportunities are available to you that you may not be aware of. It’s also important to look at your total case acceptance rate. We want to see you hitting a goal of 85% case acceptance. If you aren’t there – what would utilizing patient financing do to help you get closer? If it can help you do the dentistry you love for the patients that need it so desperately, isn’t it worth it?
Teamwork is the ticket.
Work as a team on your understanding of your financial options for patients. Do the work to get clear on how well you are utilizing patient financing and determine how you can use it more effectively and intentionally in the future. Remember, your patients are actively looking for ways to overcome their biggest obstacles to accessing the care they need and want. Great customer service is being able to confidently answer this question: how easy do you make it for your patient to access what they want in your practice? It’s not about us, it’s about them. If we are here to serve, let’s do exactly as John Jameson did in his practice for 30 years: offer the best dentistry possible, give them a variety of financial options to access that dentistry and then get out of the way to let your patients say yes to the very best.