Increasing case acceptance rates can not only have an impact on your revenue, it can significantly improve your overall satisfaction by providing you with opportunities to perform more complex cases. However, getting patients to accept a treatment plan can be challenging, especially for those complex cases. So what can you do to get a “yes” more frequently?

improving dental patient case acceptance

Many doctors believe the reason patients say “no” is due to money concerns, but the research tells a different story. We’ve conducted two separate surveys to better understand patients’ reasons for accepting or delaying treatment. Both surveys showed the cost of treatment plays a role in less than 50 percent of cases when a patient doesn’t accept treatment. So what’s going on with the rest of the patients? It’s true that fear of treatment or inconvenient scheduling may play a role for some. However, for many patients, the reason is simple: they didn’t like the way treatment was presented by the doctor or they didn’t understand why treatment was necessary.

This is great news for doctors. If you change your presentation style, you can see significant improvements.

3 ways treatment is typically presented

1. Authoritarian

This approach positions you as the expert. You basically let the patient know they have the problem, how you can cure it and the cost. Example: “You need four crowns. I can do that for you next month. The price for this is $1,500.” The downside of this approach is that it can seem cold and direct. It also doesn’t allow the patient to have a voice in how they will be treated and it doesn’t provide options. 

2. Scarcity

With this approach, the doctor may have some level of anxiety about whether the patient will accept treatment or not. They don’t want to scare the patient away, so they may only discuss the concern with the highest likelihood of acceptance. This means the doctor suppresses presenting all of his or her findings. Example: The doctor may only present two of the crowns that are needed and wait until the next visit to address the remaining crowns with the patient. By not telling the truth to the patient, the patient will leave the visit believing everything is fine except for the concern the doctor mentioned. When the patient finds out about additional treatment needs, they may lose trust in the doctor for surprising them with new information and keeping the patient out of the loop.  

3. Co-diagnostic

With this approach, the doctor doesn't present a treatment plan, they report findings. They help the patient understand the consequences if the issue is left untreated and let the patient decide how they would like to proceed. Example: The doctor may say, “you have some decay in this tooth. If left untreated, this could lead to a root canal down the road.” At this point, the patient will often ask, “what can we do about it?” This approach allows the patient to be involved in the treatment planning process and gives them the opportunity to decide how to proceed. 

While different patients may respond better to certain approaches, the co-diagnostic model is the preferred presentation model.

This approach takes assumptions out of the presentation and lets the patient decide what they would like to do. You may be surprised by the amount of work a patient is willing to invest in if they understand the consequences and outcomes presented to them. By inviting the patient to participate, you’ll also help establish trust, which is a key component to building case acceptance.

Your presentation style isn't the only tool you have to establish trust. 

For most practices, we recommend starting with the new patient experience. Design an experience that will help establish your credibility and competency. Make sure you’re memorable for all the right reasons. 

3 ways to build trust

1. Make a great first impression

First impressions go beyond tone of voice and a welcoming office decor. Take every detail into account. A new patient's decision to trust you and your staff begins with the first contact he or she has with your practice. This starts with the first phone call and continues all the way through post-exam follow up. A new patient's decision to trust you begins with the first contact.

2. Listen and engage

Take the time to listen to what your patients have to say, whether they are sharing their fears about treatment or telling you about a hobby they enjoy. Demonstrating a genuine interest in what your patients have to say will go a long way in building trust. Demonstrate a genuine interest in what your patients are saying.

3. Build long-term relationships

Retaining more patients will naturally lead to greater case acceptance. Patients who know you better are more likely to trust you when complex treatment is presented. They are also more likely to refer their friends and family to your practice. Patients who know you better are more likely to trust you.

Not sure where to get started?

If you’re feeling overwhelmed, you’re not alone. Spear Practice Solutions is designed to help. We combine coaching from expert consultants with tailored educational content for team alignment and real-time analytics to improve practice health.