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10 Tips for Convincing Your Dentist to Invest in Process Improvement

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For most people, change is difficult. Change can represent a loss of comfort, and while this might be appealing to some it’s not the case for all. But, as the saying goes, change is inevitable, and in business, resistance to change is not possible.

Perhaps in past times, it was possible for businesses to “rest on their laurels” and maintain the status quo with their services because people trusted them and knew what they were getting. But now, increased competition pushes us to do better, and we must evolve in response to shifts and trends in the market and our communities.

One of the best ways to do this is through process improvement. Even if you understand this, leadership in your dental practice may need a little convincing, as they too may be resistant to change. If you need help convincing your dentist to invest in process improvement, the following 10 tips may help.

  1. Understand the Goals of the Practice and Structure Your Suggestions Accordingly

We all think about what we want first, but this is not how to convince someone to do something or to persuade them to your line of thinking. You should determine what matters to your boss and to the practice overall.

Is the priority: generating more revenue, improving communications with payers, improving how your team performs, acquiring and retaining patients?

Put yourself in your dentist’s shoes and think about what would convince you to affect a process change? Is it cost, convenience, a need to be tech savvy? Once you figure this out, you can structure your pitch accordingly.

  1. Set Yourself Up for Success by Developing a Strategy

Your dentist is busy, so the best thing you can do is prepare for your pitch in a way that maximizes the brief time you have available to discuss your proposal. You need to have a strategy that is clear, concise and invites a response. Prepare with materials that you can send via email or leave on the desk so they can be reviewed when your dentist has a spare moment. The last thing you want to do is ambush your boss in a hallway or while they’re trying to grab a quick bite to eat between appointments. Be mindful of their time and present information in an organized, efficient manner.

  1. Get Team Buy-in

If you’re part of a team that the process change will effect, you need to rally their support. Practice your pitch on your teammates and embrace their feedback. If you can convince your team members to endorse it, you’ve won the first battle and, provided that your boss respects their opinion, their engagement should support your ideas.

  1. State the Facts

Leverage data that explains the amount of time and money that your proposal will save. Show comparison estimates for the cost of the current and proposed processes. 

EXAMPLE: Based on the estimates below, moving from our current manual, print and mail claim attachment process to FastAttach (processing claim attachments and supporting documentation electronically,) could save the practice between $1,000-$1,200 per year or more.

Current State: Mailing 20 attachments per month costs approximately: $144 Monthly or $1,728 Annually

  • Postage = $14.00 (@.70)
  • Office supplies (including envelopes, paper, ink/toner, etc.) = $10.00 (@.50)
  • Labor (including time spent on the phone with payers for follow-up, re-sending denials, locating, copying, mailing or faxing and tracking attachments) = $120.00 (eight hours@$15/hr)

Proposed State: Using FastAttach for 20 attachments (or more) per month costs approximately: $44 Monthly or $787 Annually Year One and $528 Annually after Year One

  • FastAttach service = $34/mo (unlimited attachments.) An annual plan also is available at a discounted rate of $384/yr for even more savings.
  • FastAttach Annual Fee = $59 (secure document storage and administration)
  • FastAttach Registration Fee (one-time setup, installation and unlimited training) = $200
  • Labor (including time spent following-up with payers, re-sending denials, locating, copying, mailing or faxing and tracking attachments) = $10.00 (two minutes per attachment = 40 minutes @$15/hr)
  1. Explain the Benefits to the Practice

Think “big picture,” not just how this will make your life easier; rather how it will benefit the entire team as well as enhance the practice’s bottom line.

Discuss, for example, how moving away from a time-consuming manual attachment process to a faster electronic process – one through which you can prove exactly what was sent to which payers and when rather than spending time on the phone following up on “lost claim documentation” — will improve not only your demeanor, but will free you up to do other tasks. Explain that your entire team will be able to get more done with less hassle and less stress. With happier employees, the company can expect higher productivity, improved retention and loyalty in return.

  1. Address Objections BEFORE They Happen

You know there is going to be some push back on suggested or recommended changes, so be sure to address objections BEFORE they’re raised. By laying out both the pros and cons of the new process, you make it easy for your dentist to make a decision.

See the example below and formulate your own scenarios:

Objection: There’s nothing wrong with the current process. We’re getting reimbursed each month and that’s what matters.

Rebuttal: Yes, but we could be getting reimbursed faster – within a week or less with many payers, and by automating the attachment process, I could be spending time with patients or helping market and grow the practice versus on the phone tracking claims with the insurers. Did you know that our A/R for accounts over 60 days is at 33 percent when they should be closer to 20 percent? I am confident that the change I’m recommending can help us get closer to that goal because many of these claims are pending because of the back and forth with requested documentation “being lost in the mail.”

  1. Do a Test Run

Does the service you’re looking at offer a free trial? If so, try the service free for 30 days and show the dentist how much time (and money) you could be saving. The proof is in the results. By trying it out in advance of pitching it to your dentists, you can have the proof that you need to demonstrate how much easier and more efficient a process, like submitting claim attachments electronically, is compared to the way it is currently done. Be sure to benchmark your time and cost savings as you go along.

  1. Wait It Out

Set a window for following-up on the proposal, and wait. Once you’ve presented your suggestion, be patient and available to answer any questions that might arise. Keep in mind that although you may see this as a “no-brainer,” your dentist doesn’t necessarily see all of the same issues you do on a daily basis.

Additionally, process change is a big undertaking for most people, so take that into consideration when discussing these changes. The mantra, “If it’s not broke, don’t fix it,” works for many businesses, so it may take some added convincing to get the result you’re looking to achieve – or it may not happen. You need to be prepared for either outcome and handle the dentist’s decision appropriately.

  1. If Approved, Give it Your All to Ensure Success

Implementing a new process isn’t easy. It requires extra effort, especially at the beginning, to learn the software, if that’s the change being made. Make sure that your entire team understands the rationale for the change, manage their expectations and make sure they have been trained to their comfort level. Send a weekly summary showing your team the results of the change and encourage them to embrace the new process. Ask often if they need help. If they don’t accept and adapt the new process, you’ve got another battle on your hands. Be patient with them – and with yourself.

  1. Demonstrate the Results

Once you’ve convinced your dentist to make the change, be sure to follow-up in three, six and 12 months to show him or her the results of the change so that they can see for themselves the value of the process improvement. Painting a clear before and after picture not only validates your new process, but also enhances your reputation as a change agent so that the next suggestion you make might not take quite as much convincing as this effort.

In business, the philosophy of “same old, same old” does not work, but that’s not a bad thing. Quite the opposite: Realizing and accepting that there is a new way of accomplishing a task can be exciting and can create many great opportunities for your practice.