While consulting at a practice where dental compliance was 17 percent, I shadowed exams to determine why clients weren’t accepting treatment for their pets. The first exam revealed answers.
After the veterinarian explained his diagnosis of grade 3 dental disease, he said, "The girls up front will give you an estimate when you check out.” After the client paid, the receptionist said, "Here’s your dental estimate.” The client left without scheduling the procedure.
A communication makeover would significantly improve client compliance, patient care and hospital revenue. Taking the practice from its current 17 percent dental compliance to the AAHA benchmark of 38 percent 1 could bring $274,561 in additional revenue over the next 12 months (see Table 1).
Five communication shortcomings were the cause in this practice.
First, employees used the term "estimate” instead of "treatment plan.”
Second, treatment plans were handed to clients without interactive conversations.
Third, clients received treatment plans in the public lobby. Would you feel comfortable asking medical or financial questions with an audience?
Next, front-desk employees gave clients treatment plans. Technicians, who perform dentistry, would be more skilled at explaining treatment plans in exam rooms.
Lastly, collecting today’s payment first may be causing clients to hesitate to schedule follow-up procedures.
The client service team needs to practice schedule first, pay last.
Say, "I see that Max was diagnosed with grade 3 dental disease today, and Dr. Smith needs you to schedule a dental treatment. Dr. Smith can do the procedure this Wednesday or next Tuesday. Which works best for you? Then we’ll get you checked out for today’s services.” Another bonus of schedule first, pay last: The appointment reminder will print on today’s receipt.
When presenting diagnoses and treatment plans, your team needs to use language that clients will understand. Post the word-makeover chart on your employee bulletin board.
Good communication skills encompass positive, proactive words. Consider the difference you can make in patients’ health and clients’ satisfaction when you change some common terms into friendly phrases.
Wendy S. Myers owns Communication Solutions for Veterinarians and is a partner in Animal Hospital Specialty Center, a 10-doctor AAHA-accredited referral practice in Highlands Ranch, Colo. She helps teams improve compliance and client service through consulting, seminars and webinars. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org or www.csvets.com.