How to enhance your patient journey with patient finance

patient experienceEleanor Young talks about how removing financial barriers and having crucial conversations with patients may lead to a better patient experience and, therefore, an increase in implant treatment uptake.

As we reach the end of the first quarter of 2021, now is a fantastic time to see how you’ve performed so far. Take a look at areas that you can improve on in your patient journey.

From the initial enquiry through to beginning implant treatment, the process needs to be slick and convenient to maximise the number of enquiries that convert into treatment.

Introducing patient finance into your patient journey is beneficial for your patients as well as your practice. Many patients now expect finance as an option. This is due to the fact that it’s readily available across so many services. From online shopping through to buying a car or even paying for home improvements.

What’s more, patient finance aims to make implant treatment easier to provide. It removes the financial barriers which stop treatment going ahead. You can rest easier knowing you have been paid in full. Patients can also do so knowing they don’t have to immediately pay a large cost upfront in order to proceed with treatment.

Here are a couple of ways to introduce patient finance into your patient journey:

Appealing to new patients

Patients who aspire to have dental implants often won’t take action until they make it a priority. We’ve heard from many practices that there has been an increase in demand from patients who have seen their disposable income grow, as lockdown has resulted in some reduced outgoings such as the cost of commuting to work, for example. This in turn increases the likelihood of patients looking for treatment.

Visible marketing material can often help drive footfall when it comes to specific treatments. The internet is usually the first place we go to when making this kind of decision, so ensure your website is working well and mentions that you have finance options available.

It’s vital the front of house team is welcoming. You need to be well informed and able to build rapport quickly on the phone in order to convert a new patient enquiry into a consultation. It’s important to consider how you could promote your patient finance product as part of this initial enquiry.

A clinical consultation will establish a patient’s suitability for treatment but will also start a conversation around the options and prices. This should be clinically led, to ensure the patient is basing their decision on that rather than being swayed by the price.

Consultations

In the current climate, consider using video consultations to help make treatment more accessible for your patient. They are easy to schedule and can help you manage your time more wisely – you can then utilise practice consultations for enquiries where you are more certain of them converting into treatment.

Often after the consultation, due to time constraints, the clinician will need to hand the patient over to another member of the team to discuss the specifics of patient finance. Consider how this handover might happen.

Reception isn’t a private place in which to discuss financial matters and may make your treatment plan less appealing. Either use a private area, arrange a video call or arrange for the patient to come back for a finance consultation. You need to prepare and confidently talk through repayment options.

Understandably, discussing money and payments is a daunting topic when it’s thought of as a sales technique. However, communicating that finance options are available to make life easier for the patient will lead to better acceptance.

Often patients will want to take a quote away to consider. If this happens, arrange a follow-up call to keep momentum.

With some finance providers, the patient can complete the application in the comfort of their own home. The convenience of this removes another barrier, as not all patients will be ready to commit there and then.

The benefit of patient finance is that once the application is approved, responsibility for the finance agreement rests with the funder. This leaves the practice to focus on delivering the treatment and the patient to enjoy the benefits.

Helping existing patients say ‘yes’

Patient finance can also be an integral part of the journey for many existing patients. Particularly for those who are interested in undertaking implant treatment.

One way to find out if a patient is happy with their smile is to ask them to fill in a smile questionnaire before their appointment. Make sure it enquires how they feel about any missing teeth. This provides an opening for you to discuss implant treatment and the payment facilities available.

Having patient finance can also assist in beginning this conversation as it removes the pressure of upfront payment.

Case studies of real people are often more engaging for patients. Particularly in terms of how both their appearance and quality of life may improve post-treatment. Consider keeping these readily available for better acceptance.

You’ll need to consider how to introduce patient finance and the concept of spreading the cost so patients can say ‘yes’ to the treatment they really want, rather than settling for a more immediately affordable treatment – as can be the case when bridges or dentures are also available.

Remember, your patient may not be ready at that moment in time to decide to proceed. Build it in to your patient journey to follow up in future appointments should their circumstances change. You can easily miss these potential future opportunities, without the processes in place to capture them. 

This article first appeared in Implant Dentistry Today magazine. You can read the latest issue here. 

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