One of the real old-fashioned taboos in dentistry has always been about discussing the topic of money.
Some dentists HATE to talk about money to their patients in any way, shape or form.
In fact, there are dentists who go OUT OF THEIR WAY to avoid discussions with patients about their fees, and about how the patient can pay and when they would like their patients to pay.
And yet, money needs to be discussed.
Without payment for treatment, and without cashflow, we have no business.
We have bankruptcy.
When we have no business, we have no employees any more.
And those employees that we used to have lose their incomes.
Employees in a healthy business get paid and then spend their income on groceries, leisure, homes and home fittings and also on entertainment.
And those employees pay taxes on their salaries and those taxes help to pay for schools and roads and hospitals.
Money is important because it makes the world go around.
And therefore it needs to be mentioned and not be avoided.
I was told very early on in my dental career that I need to be able to look the patient in the eye and tell them the fee straight to their face.
And not beat around the bush.
And so should you.
You need to be able to look the patient in the eye and tell them the fee straight to their face.
So when should you let your patients know how they can pay for their dental treatment and care?
The touchpoints in the conversation about money at your practice can be:
- Before your patient even calls you.
Your dental marketing can bear the logos of the credit cards you accept and the patient finance companies that you have available in your practice. The display of these logos works subliminally to inform your patients that your practice wants and expects prompt payment for dental treatment.
- On the phone call when you make and confirm the first appointment.
During the initial phone conversation, it is important to set the payment expectations with the caller [at the appropriate moment, of course] about the fees for their upcoming first visit. This is also a good time to mention the various methods of payment used by your other patients.
- On arrival at the practice.
Again, discretely placed logos for credit card companies and payment options serve as a subliminal At our practice we used to have an American Express “Welcome/We are closed” sign on our dental office front door.
- When you are treatment planning.
It is always beneficial for the dentist to know in advance about the patient’s financial awareness when treatment planning and case presenting. A patient who has already enquired about patient finance options before they meet the dentist can be gently directed toward that method of payment for their necessary diagnosed treatment.
- Making appointments to start treatment.
It makes sense to discuss methods of payment that you have available with each patient before diving into and making a raft of appointments that the patient may be unable to pay for.
Use your marketing
Use your external and internal marketing to raise awareness for your patients about the various ways that your dental practice has for them to easily pay for their necessary diagnosed treatment. This allows you to “prepare” all your patients so they know they have a number of choices when it comes to determining how they will pay for their treatment.
- Seeing payment option logos on your marketing material can create familiarity for them because this is something they do normally when they make other purchases.
- In discussions and conversations, invite your patients and prospective patients to start thinking about how everything is easy for them when it comes to payment, if large amounts can be broken down and managed in smaller amounts.
- By doing this consistently you immediately reduce your patient’s concerns about whether they might be able to afford treatment and pay for it.
On the initial phone call to your practice
One of the most asked questions on the New Patient Phone Call is:
“How much does it cost?”
This is a question that is regularly and routinely asked at some point in nearly every initial phone call.
At the end of the call we can talk about money and payments:
- Talk about the options you have available to make everything easy and manageable for your patient.
- You need to make it OK to discuss money and payments.
- When you are clear about payment options on the initial phone call, your patients will be warmed to the conversation about money and ready when you discuss the cost of treatment and care during their first appointment.
There is now a definite shift happening in the questions that first time callers are asking on the phone, sometimes before you have even discussed their dental problem and concern.
Now they are asking:
“Do you have any payment plans?”
“Do you have AfterPay?”
“Can I use ZipPay?”
On arrival at your dental practice
Have logo signage and appropriate videos that match the initial marketing your patients have seen before they have called your office.
These serve to prompt your patients to ask and initiate a conversation about the payment options, sometimes before they have even seen the dentist.
Talking about the payment for treatment and care at the front desk following their appointment
When appropriate and relevant, you can bring up the conversation about payment options at the Patient Handover.
Always let every patient know what payment options are available in your practice, and be aware AHEAD OF TIME which patients have previously expressed an interest in using third party finance options.
Keeping your available payment options a secret is a missed opportunity to help your patients comfortably go ahead with treatment.
Don’t wait until patients say NO to treatment to show them the payment options. Start with the payment plan options in the first instance when you have a comprehensive treatment plan to present.
- Focus on the smaller payments as a manageable way to pay.
- Then move to the larger lump sum of treatment.
Let patients know that many patients choose the third-party finance option as their means of payment for their dental treatment.
If you believe your treatment is what is best for your patient, then your patient SHOULD be given EVERY OPPORTUNITY to pay for that treatment.
Using third party finance options now gives your patient the choice to GO AHEAD with their necessary dental treatment.
Patients know that GOOD DENTISTRY costs money. It is your job to help your patients work out the best way for them to be able receive the dentistry that they need.
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