We are seeing more and more ‘dental shoppers’ in our practice these days. Coming in for a second opinion because the first dentist recommended a significant treatment plan and they want to compare what we think. Patients bring in the treatment plan from the other practice and after we give our recommendations, they share it with us. I see London, I see France, I see Aspen’s treatment plan!
Recognizing that this is a new trend – what does your treatment plan look like? Dentrix allows me to choose the style of header and the information I want to display – depending upon my practice appearance. We also can customize the descriptions for each code to make them patient-friendly. How does this look with your dental practice management software? Do you think your patient will feel more comfortable paying for a MIF-amal-2 or a 3 surface silver filling on tooth #2? If your patient doesn’t understand the language, how are they to value the treatment?
When your office manager slides the treatment plan over the front desk to show the patient what the dentist recommends – is it easy for the patient to understand? Are you taking the time to group procedures into separate visits? Have you checked the right boxes so the patient can see the total fee, the insurance estimate and their personal portion? Did you include the box at the bottom that shows a YTD summary of their dental benefits maximum and used so they can see what they have left? If your staff presents this same information to patients at each visit, then the patients understand the treatment and the fees – and this facilitates a conversation on how they want to pay for their portion of dental collections.
For more complex cases, we never share our Dentrix treatment plan with the patient. This line by line detail is fine for communicating the need for a few fillings or even a root canal and crown, but never for a significant treatment plan. If there will be multiple extractions, several fillings, some perio treatment and then replacement for missing teeth, this line-by-line treatment plan becomes both overwhelming to the patient – and encourages them to cherry pick fees, “How can a 4 surface filling really cost $280? Does the doctor need a new car?”
For these cases, we still enter the treatment into Dentrix but we use our own template in Word to present the overall plan to the patient. I like how our dentists put the treatment into steps (not per visit) – first is the ‘let’s get your decay under control’ step which may involve perio treatment or at least some preventive care visits. Next is the ‘immediate needs’ step which includes extractions/endo and perhaps some large fillings. Next is the ‘put you back together’ step for fillings, crowns, etc. Finally is the ‘most expensive” step – this is for the metal frame partial or the implant. We keep the Dentrix treatment plan in the chart, but the Word document is what is shared with our patients.
If you know there’s a chance that your treatment plan makes it’s way to another dentist – you might want to take a look at what you’re sending out the door. Ask your office manager to give you a copy of the treatment plan for one of your patients seen yesterday for just a handful of fillings. What do you think? Now, think about what you gave to the complex case patient you just talked with last week – can you make a copy of what you gave to the patient? If your patient was a woman and said she had to review the treatment plan with her spouse – how would the spouse understand your treatment when he only has the printed page in front of him? Do you think he would approve your $2,400 plan? Patients make treatment decisions based on these printed forms – do they reflect the quality and communication you want for your practice?