Episode 172: How To Best Offer Financial Options So Your Patients Get Their Needed Treatment
“If I can get in relationship with the patient during the exam process, then the financial arrangements are much easier.” ~Dr. Bruce B. Baird
I get this question all the time, “What’s the ideal when presenting financial options?”
Well, that might not be the right question to ask.
I get it. You run a business. You have to meet certain financial goals in order to keep your business afloat but I want to encourage you today to think about your financial options differently.
I’ve always thought that my goal as a dentist is to get to know my patients. My job is to make them feel seen and heard and to build trust with them. That’s my team’s goal as well.
If we can get in relationship with the patient then the financial arrangements become a whole lot easier because the patient wants the treatment and what’s more they want me and my team to be the ones to do it. Once we get to that point of trust, the financial arrangements become a breeze.
So today I’m going to share some of the methods and processes I used when presenting treatment plans and financial arrangements to patients, including:
- What usually happens when presenting treatment options (and why that doesn’t really work)
- How to respond to the 3 reactions patients have when they see treatment cost
- A critical phrase to use when a patient says “I can’t afford it”
This is Dr. Bruce Baird with the Productive Dentist Podcast and looking forward to sharing with you some of the ideas. I had another question about how you do financial arrangements. Is our financial arrangements part of your case presentation? And you would think well, yes, it is because people always want to know how much it is. Do you have special people that you have a special person that does all your financial arrangements? And my answer to that is no. You know, I really wanted to present financial options to a patient to not necessarily be completely associated with getting a patient to say yes to treat treatment, and when I say getting yes, saying yes to treatment, means I want you to be the dentist that I work with. I really like your office, I like your team, I love and really, I love everything about this place, I really want to do this work here and that is getting a patient to say yes to treatment.
Now, getting them to schedule., that is where what comes in is the financial arrangements and I’ve talked about this for years and tried to figure out different methods that work and different things that worked well for me. What I know is if I can get into a relationship with the patient during the exam process, the financial arrangements become much easier. If the patient really wants the work that we’re talking about, then it’s really much easier with financial arrangements. Now I’ve had docs that I’ve worked with before say, “I’m looking for somebody who can just sell dentistry, an assistant or a treatment coordinator, I want to hire somebody from the bank,” and, and my point about that is well, okay, that’s, you can do that but you don’t need to, you know, I had somebody from Walmart, I had somebody that was a vet and our vet assistant and I had somebody that was a massage therapist that came to work in our practice and all of our team are trained to do to financial arrangements. It’s my job to get patients to want the treatment in our office and it’s our whole team’s job, to have that aura that this is the place you want to be but as I’m presenting treatment, that’s where I go through the risk factors. You know, and, you know, before I do that, I always want to get to know the patient, if you guys have heard my podcast in the past, it’s, I need to find out about you, I need to find out ways we can link and match and mirror and, and really build a relationship. I like working with people who are my friends and so my goal when I come in the room is first I want to meet you, and I want to find out enough stuff about you that we can start to have things in common and that we become friends. If I see you downtown, I can say, “Hey, how’s it going,” and they can do the same with me and I’ve had 1000s of patients over the years. I love going out in town here.
I’ve been in the same town for 40 years and I just love seeing people that had been my patients and that I’ve done their smile. I had a party not long ago that I went to, and the people that were coming in, were all friends, and six out of the eight, I had a brand new smile for them. So that was really exciting for me because I thought you know what I really have, you know, really haven’t walked the talk, I’m doing what I said I just love working on my friends and that takes you to know, that takes competence but it also, I know that I can help their smile, and I can make their smile look great but what about when it comes down to the financial arrangement? What’s the ideal? Well, what ends up happening in most offices today is that I’m going to use third-party financing as an example. You give them options, you can pay half now, half later, you can pay a third, a third, a third, which really makes no sense anymore and what you ended up doing is saying, “Well, let’s try to get you approved on 1/3 party financing, maybe it’s CareCredit. Let’s try over here with proceed or let’s try over here and you keep trying until you may get somebody a yes, or you may not.” What about the patient? No.
What about the patient who says, “I can’t afford it?” Well, my question to you as a listener is, do you want your team to have to come back and find you somewhere in the office and have you come back in to come up with a different treatment plan? Well, I don’t like that and what we’ve come to learn what we know is that you’re really only three options. When I tell a patient how much their treatment is going to be. I call it ballparking. You know, I’m giving them a ballpark of their fee. I think it’s critical that you do that. So that it’s going to help every other system in your office because what I’ll do is and the average treatment plan for many of you out there is maybe $2,500 or $3,000. As you get more experienced and you get training and implants and all that stuff. Mine, I think my average treatment plan was over 13,000, 13 580 or something in that neighborhood.
So I do need more financial options. However, if I’m marketing to people who know that dentistry is more expensive, many of the times they come with money, and they they actually don’t need the financial arrangements but I’ll say oftentimes I’ll just say, “Bob, and this is critical. I know you probably already knew this but you have probably $15,000 in damage.” Now I already know that it was only 11,2 50 Because we did the treatment plan but the patient’s going to say one of three things. Number one, they’re going to say, “Oh, absolutely. I knew it was gonna be a lot. I know I’ve been I’ve been wanting to get this done, I knew it was gonna be a lot.” What does that mean to you as a dentist? Get your ass out of the way. Leave it alone, they’re ready to go.
They want you to do it and now’s the time to do it and get your team to help because your team and I don’t care if you have a dedicated person or are your treatment core. I call my treatment coordinators and they helped me chairside they coordinate treatment, they get accepted and we go down and down but they’re they are the most important people in my office when it comes to my systems that are in play but they are simply showing them a sheet that says this is these are the options that you have. So I like that.
Dr. Bruce Baird 9:52
The second thing they could say is, “Wow,” you know, get that surprised look on their face now. “Oh wow. That’s a lot, that’s a lot,” and I said, as well, “Yeah, things have really,” you know, a lot of times they’ll say, “Well, I knew it’s gonna be a lot, but I didn’t know it was gonna be that much,” and, “I’ll say buy more. Let me ask you a question here. I understand totally because healthcare keeps going up, and dental keeps going up. I’ve been doing dentistry for 40-something years and what I can tell you is, it’s never gotten cheaper in the 40 or 40-plus years that I’ve been doing it but how much did you think it was going to be? And Bob will say, “Well, I, I didn’t know gonna be a lot, I thought it might be seven or eight.”
That’s the time where you say, “No problem, you know, we’ll figure out a way, you can use that as a down payment if you want and we’ll figure out a way for some convenient monthly payments, so you can get your work done.” Now those two are ideal options. When you get one of those two, you’re cooking with gas, it’s going to be awesome. The problem is, what about the one who goes, this is the third option. “Oh my gosh, no, there’s sorry. I got three kids in college, I got my car broke down, my air conditioners out,” whatever their excuses, yada, yada, yada.
It’s okay, that’s their situation, not yours and how does my team as a patient advocate help that patient? Well, let’s figure it out. Now, while my team is in the room, and I’m still in the room because then I’m gonna say, “Well, you know what, I totally understand that, you know, I’ve been, I was in that situation, when I had kids in school, I just totally understand it.” I said, “Let’s look at it this way, Bob, you’ve got some active cavities, you’ve got some gum issues, you’ve got these things, let’s get those fixed. You know, because that’s, you know, we’re not going to be doing a lot of the Taj Mahal front teeth or anything, but we’ve got to get these things fixed. Why? Because, that cavity that’s on your back molar back there, we don’t want it to turn into a root canal, which adds another $1,000 or more of what, to your total work. We don’t want to let an abscessed tooth, you know, infect other teeth and cause you to lose a lot of bone, because that will cost you more later, let’s get your gums in good health, and let’s keep them in good health, that’s much less costly than doing some of these other procedures, but it’s going to help you in the long haul and, you know, when it gets a time when the time is right, then yes, we’ll get to these other things and if your financial situation changes, absolutely, we’ll get to those things.” I hear people all the time and there are some really top lectures out there and they say, “Look in the patient’s mouth, and do one crown, you know, pick out which tooth and then prove to them that you’re good dentists and that they are going to like you, and then later they’re going to come and do the rest.” That’s total bullshit and I know guys are out there doing it, I can tell you their names, it’s not worth it but what I can tell you is, if I go to the elbow doctor, I don’t want him to tell him what I can do the inside of your elbow, and then we’ll do the outside later, or let’s fix your heart. You’ve got three blockages, let’s do one now to see how well you do. No, that’s BS, tell the patient what you would do in your own mouth.
If it was you, the only thing that’s going to happen, you’re gonna say, “Yep, I knew was going to be a lot. Number two is they’re going to say, oops, I didn’t know was that much, but how much you think it was gonna be Bob,” or there’s no way I can’t do it, and I changed the treatment plan, I don’t change the I changed the order, instead of doing build up crown, you know, whatever, I’m going to do the buildup first, you know, I’m going to do the minimal treatment to keep them healthy. I’m also going to what I do and every appointment no matter whether that’s their first response or the last response, I’m going to tell you about the things that are doing because remember, we did the risk factors, I’m going to be telling you about the things like you know, you’re not gonna be able to make Dr. Pepper, you know, if you keep drinking it, anything I do now, or later, or anytime it’s just gonna be gone. I still need to get you in here once every four months for cleaning.
I know that’s significant, but it’s a whole lot better than $7,000. You know, you might be spending 150 bucks, you know, every, you know, four or five months. So these are the things that I look at. So if someone asked me about financial arrangements, financial arrangements are definitely tied to the system we put in place, how we go through it with patients, and whether my team is always going to be the patient’s advocate, to try to find a way for them to get the work done. My goal is also to try to help the patient get work done. It may not be the full meal deal like I want and I’m damn sure not going to tell them to let’s just do one gram and see how we do.
That’s ridiculous and it’s why 95% of all crowns in the US are done one at a time and it’s why people think that you’re trying to rip them, rip them off if you get to know him, and you get in a relationship with them, when you tell him, you know, by saying, “I know you probably already knew this, but you have $12,000 worth of damage,” by doing that you’re in the game, you’re actually getting patients to say yes to treatment, your production, once you learn to schedule it properly, your production per hour is not just going to go up, it’s going to double, and then it’s going to double again and so what I’m saying is, this is the time, it’s the time when we’re starting a new year. It’s time to come up with some new game plans that are more successful, that aren’t insurance driven and that’s what I love about dentistry. There are lots of ways to do things. I’m not saying my way is the only way that I’m saving my way has been very successful for 1000s of dentists. So I challenge you to get signed up for the Productive Dentist Academy workshops, and I hope to see you soon.