Fees and payments are hard topics for many dental team members to bring up. Let alone talk about. In fact, some offices have the same trepidation of talking about it as they do about religion, politics, or cryptocurrency purchase mistakes they keep hoping will turn around.
But discussing dental fees and payment expectations early and often is something that dental teams need to establish. Deborah Engelhardt-Nash, consultant, speaker and current dental team member iterates this point:
First of all, I think it’s important for you to help your patients understand from the very beginning in the new patient letter, what your fee collection expectations are. So in your welcome letter, you can state how fees are taken care of in your office. You can also do that on the telephone.
Does this mean we start every conversation talking about prices? Or that we start marketing every service with price tags? Not at all. But talking about payment policies and fees is important to do early on so that patients don’t experience price sticker shock – a surprise in the actual cost of something they need to pay for after treatment is finished.
We don’t have to be dictatorial about it. We can be very friendly about it. So if I’m speaking to a patient, I would probably say something like this ‘so that you are comfortable while you are in our care, let me tell you how we handle your fees. We have you take care of them at the time of treatment.’ We can make that statement on a phone call when we’re talking to our patients about making their appointment.
While it may sometimes feel counterintuitive, being open and clear about pricing and fee expectations actually helps increase treatment acceptance, because you are addressing the price barrier before it becomes an objection. Debra expands on this issue saying:
I think by being very clear and being very upfront about our expectations, it opens conversation. If the patient wants to talk about financing care, then we can move into outside financing. We can move into the practice protocol of how we handle that. So, when we talk about fees, it should happen from the welcome call or the welcome letter, when we should be collecting the fees.
This is especially important for patients that are coming in for major dentistry procedures. In order for patients to commit to such procedures, they need to have a clear understanding of the financial commitment. Debra takes it one step further by advising the follow:
If the patient is coming in for treatment, for say, we’ll talk about major dentistry, then the fee should be pre-collected. Then the patient should be coming in for what I call a preoperative appointment. At that preoperative appointment, we will make sure that they understand their preoperative instructions. We will gather the preoperative data that we need before we start the restorative treatment appointment. And at that appointment, we will actually pre-collect the fee for that appointment.
While pre-collection may seem like a scary idea to implement, it is not at all uncommon in other industries, from medical to home repair. Not only does it help offices financially, but it helps decrease appointment cancellations on short notice because the patient has committed to treatment.
By having payment and fee conversations early, you can help determine what the patient is financially prepared for and even discuss and establish alternate payment methods to help patients overcome price objections.
One way to help alleviate financial strain on patients, helping overcome cost objections, is to provide patient financing like Buy Now, Pay-over-time. Buy Now, pay over time financing allows you to give patients options that let them split the cost of everyday needs and services into manageable payments over time. Plus the application process takes as little as 30 seconds and 85% of patients are approved.
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Talking about payments and fees is hard. It is not natural for many of us – especially dental team members that are worried about how a conversation like that can detract from the patient experience. However, just as any important skill, it becomes easier and more natural as we practice.
Make it very simple. Make it very clean, and you’ll be happier, your patient will be more comfortable to have that conversation openly, comfortably. It’s always better to be proactive than reactive.