Whether you’re a dental professional or a patient, you can’t argue the fact that proper dental care is a necessity.
Unfortunately, dental services aren’t always affordable for those with lower incomes. Medical Group Management Association data has found that 60% of the amount owed by patients is never collected, and if your dental office works with patients with lower incomes, there are many steps you can take to provide them with the services they need while accommodating their financial needs as well.
Here are just a few ways to work with your dental patients and help them afford the services they need:
Be Upfront About Costs
This may seem basic, but a shocking number of medical offices don’t do this, which can lead to latent or unpaid balances. It’s also an issue of trust; if you’re not straightforward about the costs associated with certain procedures, your patients may never return. And don’t think that discussing finances during a simple cleaning is sufficient — have a designated room or area where you can discuss financing options with your patients without distractions.
Offer Multiple Treatment Options
When discussing treatment options with your patients, give them all of their options and be realistic about their costs and implications. Options make people feel like they have some level of financial and emotional control of their health. Instead of having big decisions made for them, they can take the time they need to make an informed decision based on the urgency of their needs and their current financial situation.
Many dental professionals are quick to push procedures on their patients to restore oral health, and while it’s usually well-intentioned, it’s not always necessary to complete all of the work right away. In fact, the average time people wait for another dental appointment is three years, and this is often due to financial constraints. Be realistic about the timeline when it comes to treating a patient’s dental health issues.
“Most patients are not ready to hear about how poor their oral health is, let alone how much restoring their smile is going to cost. They need to be prepared for such a major decision, and that takes gradually gaining their trust and loyalty as you work to educate them. By letting patients know that while their mouths need considerable work, you are willing to wait until they are ready, you become a true partner in helping create a vision for their optimal oral health,” write Naomi Cooper and Dan Marut in Dental Economics.
According to an AACD survey, virtually all adults (99.7%) surveyed believe a healthy smile is socially important, but it’s medically important as well. Ultimately, being aware of the many ways your dental office can work with patients to accommodate their dental and financial needs is the key to running an efficient practice that truly has patients’ best interests in mind.
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