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Tips to Overcome No-Shows

If you were lucky, you had a chance to hear Gary Takacs and I do a webinar on how to radically reduce no-shows in your practice. My marketing team enjoyed it so much that they thought it would be good to boil the points down to a tip sheet.   If you’re interested in laying your hands–or at least eyeballs–on the aforementioned sheet, click here!

To see the whole webinar and a whole slew of other great resources, sign up at our Futuredontics page here.

Cracking the Insurance Code

I’m not talking about treatment codes here. I’m talking about how to stem the revenue erosion that many practices are facing by accepting dental plans, and I’m doing it in a webinar with my good friend Bernie Stoltz, the CEO of Fortune Management. His company has helped more than two thousand practices solve this challenge and build strong practices with happy patients.

We will go into alternative methods of satisfying your patients needs without compromising your profitability, and how to make choices about accepting plans as part of an overall strategy.  If you’re hoping to thrive in the next decade, this webinar is a must!

It happens on Tuesday, July 11th at11 am PT / 2 pm ET.  Click here to register.

Here’s what we know already: “Insurance” is now the #1 reason people pick a new dentist. This game-changing consumer behavior is hurting profits at practices nationwide. Join me and Bernie and learn new, better ways to leverage your insurance and dental plan offerings to maximize production and patient satisfaction. Here are some highlights:

  • Why insurance is your #1 hidden marketing expense
  • Best insurance strategies for 2017 & beyond
  • Tips on choosing the right plans for your practice
  • Smart new alternatives to traditional dental insurance

Don’t miss this informative, fast-paced presentation followed by a live Q&A session.  And as always, if you register but can’t attend, you’ll be sent a link to the recording of the session. See you online!

Becoming Remarkable is Now on Audible!

The moment many of you have been waiting for is here: my latest book, released lastBR-Amazon-image September, is now available on Audible!  We have found that Audible is the best medium for an audio book, and you can find it right here:

The price is $19.95, and unfortunately because it is Amazon I can’t discount it for anyone. 🙁

It will NOT be released on CD, as it has become an archaic (and expensive) medium, and Audible accounts are free, and even have a subscription model.

Now that I’ve managed to get this done, I promise to start blogging regularly again!

Dental Plans Are Not Health Insurance

Of course, we in dentistry all know this. It’s the consumer that somehow gets confused. Understandably, because it’s presented to them as a form of health insurance. But we’re left explaining to patients why they have to pay for so much of their dentistry even with their dental plan.   I’ve made this short video on how to explain the difference between their health insurance and their dental coverage, with an analogy that I think you’ll like and find useful.

You may remember last year, when the CEO of Washington Dental Service explained on the news why they were cutting reimbursements to dentists in an economy where absolutely nothing else is dropping in cost.  He flippantly said that “dentists could work more” to make up for the slashing of their profit.  Read my blog about it here, if you like.

The premise was that WDS, a division of Delta, needed to offer lower-cost premiums in order to stay competitive–even though they control 80%+ of the state’s dental insurance business. (Can you say monopoly?)  What’s fascinating is what they’re actually doing with the money is running television advertising promoting their product.  Gotta love that non-profit approach to making a lot of money for the executives. (The CEO makes $1.2 million. Talk about biting the hand that feeds him.)

Anyway, we’re stuck teaching people the differences in their coverage, and putting them in a position where they make bad health decisions because they have this implicit trust of their health care providers.  So they say things like, “I only want to do the dentistry that my insurance will pay for,” and, “Do I really need this work done, or do you just want to make more money?”

My advice is to sit every new patient down in the first visit and explain clearly that, unlike health insurance, where the coverage is based on what is actually wrong with them, dental coverage is simply a discount plan on some range of basic services, set by their employer and totally unrelated to the condition of their mouth or their dental care needs.  And that you will do your best to treat them in a way that is most affordable, but your professional responsibility as a dentist is to make them aware of their condition and the options for getting themselves back to a healthy smile.

Most of them will understand, and the rest, well, it’s crown-a-year dentistry for them!

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The New York Times Takes Aim at Dental Financing

On October 15th, The New York Times had a front-page article about how many senior citizens are getting roped into paying high interest for medical care financing.  Although the article was about medicine in general, the primary example was a case of a woman who financed her dentures, and how the interest had ballooned when she fell behind on payments.

Basically, the article stated that much of medical financing is done by companies that charge higher interest, with severe penalties for late or non-payment.  They mention that medical financing was about $45 billion in 2010, and going up.  This is primarily for non-insured medical treatment, not dental care.  But, strangely they didn’t mention any medical cases.  They did quote a chiropractor who had stopped using financing because “One missed payment can really ruin a patient’s life.”  (Unlike missing other kinds of payments, like your mortgage or your electric bill, which have no repercussions at all, right?)

They did point out that some of these plans charge no interest for 6-18 months (as if that’s somehow evil inducement, unlike buying a TV that way, or a bed, or anything else.)  And then there was my favorite line, “Doctors, dentists and others have a financial incentive to recommend the financing because it encourages people to opt for procedures and products they might otherwise forgo because they are not covered by insurance.”  The Times forgot to say “procedures that would be beneficial to these patients.”  Because, as we all know, senior citizens are flocking to dentists hoping to get as much unnecessary dentistry as possible, even if it impoverishes them.

Once again journalism takes the easy path, slamming dentists, and making them seem greedy.  I could get angry about it, but it’s just one more shot glass in an ocean of negativity. Sadly, the dentist that was mentioned refused to comment.  This is only makes us look worse.  I would have said, “the truth is, if someone needs dentistry, then there are very few investments they can make that can enhance the quality of their daily life as much as that dentistry will.  And unfortunately, dental coverage is minimal for most people, unlike health insurance. So we offer financing because the problem is only going to get worse and more expensive if they don’t take care of it at that time.”

When people don’t have the money for something in this country, and they need it or even just want it, they finance it.  And you know who pays higher interest? People with worse credit.  And they are financing all sorts of things that don’t add anywhere near as much value to their lives as the care dentists offer.

CareCredit is mentioned in the article, and everyone I’ve known there for 25 years has operated reputably, and helped literally millions of people get the treatment they need that they otherwise could not have afforded.  The article also mentioned that the dentist got his money up front.  The Times didn’t mention that he took a discount on that payment, because they didn’t know, or they didn’t know if it was non-recourse or full recourse financing.  And why bother to find that out?

The Times also forgot to mention that for most people dentistry is unexpected spending, often with an urgent need to get the patient out of pain or save their teeth. But why bring up that trivial detail?  And they never asked the woman in the article if she would return her dentures if she could get the money back.  I’m guessing she would have said, “Hell no!”

So what can we do in the face of this kind of negative publicity?

Well, I wouldn’t stop offering financing, that’s for sure. Patients need it.  As a practice policy, I would make sure that you explain the financing details to your patient, and make sure that they understand them.  Of course, many times people don’t listen the first couple of times you tell them something, but don’t just hand them a credit app and breeze through the explanation. It still has to be affordable for them to accept it, and they need to understand that if they don’t pay it’s just like not paying their mortgage or a credit card, there are going to be repercussions.

You might look into some very good self-financing systems, which allow you some flexibility with your patients in terms of interest and late payments, such as Comprehensive Finance, and it’s always good to have a few sources of financing for patients.  By no means should you self-finance without one of these services, or you will find out just how large your uncollected accounts receivable can get.  You need to be one step removed from the financing, and these services create that.

And also be vigilant about the finance companies that you do use. Some of them are a little tricky, or bury the risks or the triggers of higher interest in the fine print.  These patients are your long-term customers, and you need to protect them.

And in your treatment discussions, it’s essential that you are building value for that treatment in the patient’s mind, otherwise the natural tendency is to focus on the cost, especially as they make the monthly payment.

Lastly, and I say this often when I lecture, that I think there is great nobility in a profession that does so much for people’s well-being and is so under-appreciated for it.  Maybe the New York Times will call and interview me, so that I can tell them that people finance all sorts of stupid things that they don’t need and can’t afford, but dentistry isn’t one of them.

To read the full article, click here, although you might not have access to it. Some of the comments below the article give you a flavor for how the public thinks, and there are even health care professionals calling it “predatory” to offer financing.  One jerk actually said that he accepts major credit cards, but offering his own financing would be “unethical”.  Pardon me for thinking clearly, but it’s the same thing, buddy!


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