Australasian Dental Practice

Monday, 22 July, 2024

01 Jul 2005 | Australasian Dental Practice

news > Spectrum > Page 62

Treatment and payment options go hand in hand

One of the fundamental elements of informed consent is being upfront with patients about the dentistry you believe they need, the details of the treatment proposed along with the options and the expected outcomes of each. Importantly, it is about clear communication between dentist and patient to ensure there is a common expectation as to the outcome prior to treatment commencing.

"Dentists as a whole are good at communicating dentistry to their patients and presenting several options for treatment, but where they often fall down is in presenting different options to fund that treatment," said Carl Burroughs, founder of the SmileCard dental patient finance system.

"Regardless of the reasons for this, patients want to know they have options to pay for the treatment as well. If you communicate these options at the same time you present the treatment plan, then both you and your patient will feel much more comfortable that again, there is a shared expectation."

Mr Burroughs said that many dentists did not realise how key the interrelationship between these two areas was in running a successful practice.

"Many dentists firstly offer the very best treatment to the patient and then also present one or two less ideal and typically less expensive options. The latter is essentially an 'out' for the patient if the traditionally taboo area of the cost of treatment is perceived as an issue. The better solution is to present the best treatment option and at the same time, present attractive options that the patient can utilise to fund treatment."

Mr said issues like funding treatment and health insurance rebates were very important issues from the patient's perspective and that dentists should participate in all aspects of treatment rather than delegating it away to front desk personnel.

"Communication is the key to the treatment presentation and you need to understand what the patient will need from this interaction and be prepared to deliver it. Ensure your comprehensive treatment plan shows each stage of treatment and the costs involved along the way. If you simply tell the patient that treatment will cost X, then expect them to want to know the breakdown of how this number was arrived, what they can expect to get back from insurance and what are the options for paying the rest."

Mr Burroughs said that the key to making the financial side of the treatment "painless" was to present patients with a number of options.

"The treatment plan should generate a compelling desire for the patient to accept treatment, whether that be work that is essential to maintain the health of the oral environment or a more elective cosmetic procedure. Next, you need to follow through with options that will make it very easy for patients to make the required financial commitment.

"Fortunately, most dentists have by now learnt the hard lessons of offering in-house payment plans to patients and now require payment at the time of treatment by either cash, cheque or credit card. The problem at this stage is that if none of these options suit the patient, then the delivery of treatment is in danger of being delayed, strung out over a lengthy period or abandoned altogether. From the perspective of a healthcare provide, none of these outcomes are attractive.

"The key reason we launched SmileCard was to allow dental practices to have a further option to present, namely patient finance. SmileCard will allow your patients to accept treatment and pay for it over time and at a rate below that typically charged by credit cards."

Mr Burroughs said that SmileCard had signed up hundreds of dental practices as merchants since its launch at the 31st Australian Dental Congress and cited ease-of-use and the fact that it was a dental-only facility as reasons for its success to date.

"SmileCard is the only patient finance facility designed for the dental profession by people that have an intimate interest and understanding of the profession. SmileCard has been specifically designed to help your patients get both the dental treatment they want and need when they choose."

"Once the patient agrees to use SmileCard, there is very little work for the the practice to do. The patient will spend a short time on the telephone with one of the SmileCard team and then once approved, there is a small amount of admin before the money appears in your bank account 24 hours before treatment commences.

"You will also find that SmileCard indirectly improves your cash flow. With many comprehensive treatment plans taking a number of months to complete, payment is traditionally dragged out over the same length of time. With SmileCard, you receive all the money upfront, negating a great many administrative tasks to manage the collection process."

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