Discussing patient financing
In the real world, many people may be uncomfortable discussing money—and that could include some dental team members. To make financial conversations easier, it’s important to commit to team training. A great financial conversation doesn’t just happen; it takes time and practice. Ask your practice management coach or patient financing partner for any team training tools they may have available, such as scripts and role-playing exercises. Even if you have a financial coordinator, who most likely will be having most of these conversations, the entire team should be able to discuss payment options with patients the same way, so patients hear a consistent message. Set training times and make it a priority for all team members.
For example, at the morning huddle, the team could be given a frequently asked patient question, then challenged to provide their own answers. The team can then choose the answer or a combination of answers they believe best communicates payment options to patients. Role-play and listen to each other as you present fees and payment options. Work together as a team to continually enhance this critical conversation.
Some of the most effective ways doctors and their teams have found to present fees and payment options are:
- Present the treatment fee to patients both as a total fee and as a monthly investment.
- Present patient financing with a positive attitude, knowing you’re providing an appreciated service that can help enable more patients to improve and maintain their oral health.
- To enhance understanding, use visual aids such as payment charts, patient brochures and a payment calculator.
Reading their comprehension
Ultimately, it’s important that your patients thoroughly understand their payment options and what they’re committing to financially. When presenting fees, your patient must be alert and focused and outside the clinical environment. (Of course, you wouldn’t want to present critical information or ask for a clinical or financial decision when a patient is under stress or anesthesia.)
It’s useful to have a patient Payment Agreement Form that details the payment preferences of the patient, including how and when the fees will be paid. Go over the form in detail with patients, explaining how patient financing works and what they can expect. Keep a copy of the form and the signed transaction slip—including loan details, if applicable—in their file should questions arise in the future.
Remember to take the time to answer questions and check for clarity.
“Mrs. Jones, to make sure I’ve explained myself clearly about the terms of the financial agreement, we have this Payment Agreement Form that details your payment responsibility. Let’s go over this form together. If you have any questions at any time, just let me know.” The success of patient financing within your practice will, again, take a team effort. In most practices, the team has the most interaction with the patient and are the ones communicating fees and payment solutions.
As you begin integrating patient financing, you’ll be able to see the impact it has on production, case acceptance and even failed appointments by monitoring these practice “vital signs” in your practice management software. These are great numbers to go over in your team meetings.
Giving people options and flexibility is always a best practice, especially when it comes to time and paying for care. It’s never good to assume you know what your patients want and need. Instead, the best practice is to offer all options and ask which they prefer. Remember, you can’t judge a patient’s payment preference by they way he looks or how she’s paid for treatment in the past. Patients’ situations may change, but the dental team’s goal remains constant: to help patients get the care they need and want, without stressing them financially. Making patient financing a part of your processes and systems can help you meet this goal and help more patients get and stay healthy.