Helping Patients Understand the Value of Treatment vs. the Expense


Doctors, assistants and hygienists receive years of clinical training on procedures to improve the oral health of the patients they serve. The challenge, for many, comes down to how well they and their teams can collect on the fees they charge for the services they provide.

Even though business classes are becoming part of the curriculum in many dental schools, they’re not the focus – and they shouldn’t be. This gap leads to a challenge as clinicians graduate with high levels of clinical skills, yet may have minimal skills that qualify them for running a business. Indeed, that – along with mounting student loan debt to the tune of $250,000 or more in most cases – is one of the key reasons many young dentists may find themselves starting their careers as part of a larger Dental Service Organization (DSO) as discussed in a recent NEA white paper: “The Changing Dental Landscape.”

For those dentists running their own practice, it’s critical to get patients to not only accept treatment plans, but also to get them and/or their insurance plans to pay for the services rendered in a timely manner. According to “Moving Your Patients to YES!” – a recently released book by well-known dental consultant, Teresa Duncan, M.S., of Odyssey Management, “To be an effective dental team, we need to be able to serve the patients – not just clinically, but also financially.” Patients are always going to be concerned about the cost of procedures – after all, who likes spending money on dentistry? They key is making sure that patients not only understand the procedures, but that they understand the value behind the expenses. They need to know: that the fees presented are reasonable; what portion(s) of the procedure is covered by their insurance; what is their co-pay; and what are their payment options.

Delivering this information is much more involved than providing a simple financial breakdown and sending the patient on their way. The procedures being suggested are critical to the long-term oral health of the patient, yet, often times, that simple fact gets lost in the rush to get to “the bottom line” of what it’s going to cost. Team members should understand how to insure that their conversations with patients have a lasting impact – and not due to “sticker-shock.”

One way Duncan suggests making a powerful case for treatment is by providing an example of the cost of having the procedure done versus the cost of dealing with potential longer-term issues years down the road. Showing factual estimates of the hard procedural costs while also stressing the less tangible costs of pain and suffering that’s likely to occur is a great tool for making the case for prompt treatment.

It takes tremendous people skills to relay this information in a compassionate, yet authoritative manner. “When we’re able to show the patient that we know what we’re talking about as far as their benefits; eligibility and co-payment amounts, they will begin to trust us,” says Duncan.

Invest in a team that understands how to build that trust with your patients and the payments will follow.

Learn how to make sure your entire team has the skills they need to navigate the complex world of patient engagement at: