Tricks and Tips from a TCO – why your practice needs a TCO

Tracie Barnett details why employing a treatment coordinator should be one of the first things you do in 2023.

A recent BBC investigation found that nine in 10 NHS dental practices across the UK are not accepting new adult patients for treatment under the health service. The only way is on a private basis.

The whole profession is inundated with patients needing general dental care. This is before we look at patients opting for cosmetic treatment.

The solution?

What if you had a dedicated member of staff who is knowledgeable, confident and competent to take pressure off clinicians and admin staff?

Someone to offer an amazing service to your patients before they even set foot in the practice – I promise you this person does exist!

Meet the 2023 TCO

Treatment coordinators have been around for years to relieve the pressure and convert more cosmetic treatment, but having a TCO seems to be the ‘in thing’ right now. Am I right so far? Good, here’s more.

Practice principals think they need a TCO just because everyone else seems to have one. However, often the reality is that once the practice employs a TCO they have no idea what to do with them.

Principals think they need one, associates would love one and dental nurses want to become one. While of course the practice manager sits on the fence thinking all things business like.

As a TCO for the last five years, I have seen first hand the benefits it has made to the practice. My previous 23 years as a dental nurse has given me enough experience to understand where the uncertainty of the TCO role comes from.

Becoming a TCO was progression and gave me a huge amount of job satisfaction. For my principal, taking on a TCO was a no brainer, if not a little scary, but admittedly we didn’t have a clue how to implement the role into practice. Here’s how.

It took time for other team members to understand the TCO role and my purpose in the practice. To them, I was a newbie coming in to change things. It took them time to adapt to having a TCO around.

Over time we figured it out together, setting a TCO plan and wrote down exactly what we wanted the practice to achieve and worked from there.

I discuss this topic openly over on The Aligner TCO Network forum, which is available to everybody.

What does a TCO do and why would they benefit your practice?

Tip one: The first  thing to consider is that every practice works differently and the TCO role can be adapted depending on your required goals. Your TCO should be the advocate for your dental practice.

Tip two: A TCO should be able to build long lasting relationships by building rapport and listening to the patient’s needs.

Tip three: Having a TCO is a great USP for your practice – a dedicated member of your team patients can contact if needed.

ROI: dentist versus TCO

How can we get a return on investment from a nurse that becomes a TCO?

So if we start with the dentist not having to see free consultations or existing patient enquiries, the dentist is gaining time. And time is money, right?

Let’s say a practice gets 10 inquiries a month at 30 minutes an inquiry. So ten x 30 minute= 300 minutes a month, x12 =3600 minutes = 60 hours at 150 an hour = 9000, compared to a nurse with 60 hours x15= 900.

It costs 10x more for a clinician to do the role of a TCO.

If I said tomorrow all clinicians are going to be doing hygiene, you would say this wouldn’t be profitable, right?

TCOs convert better than clinicians!

Now the other benefit of a TCO is conversion rate, let’s say that an average associate converts 30%, TCOs will probably do double that.

We don’t blind patients with facts or figures and talk the patient out of treatment. Here’s more…

A dentist will go through the treatment plan, and they’ll leave it for the patient to make up their mind. And there’s never any follow up even though the patient may be interested.

Unconverted treatment plans

If I went into my computer system of any practice without a competent TCO and pulled off the treatment plans within the last 12 months.

I bet, they’ve easily got 40 – 50.000 pounds worth of treatment plans sat there, and that is a very conservative guess.

They just haven’t been converted, they are lost in the system. Nobody’s followed them up.

Excel in customer service

You need to stand out from the crowd. Having a dedicated member of your team to be able to handle patient enquires will set you aside from the rest.

Your reception team do not have the time to have long conversations with potential patients. Having someone standing in front of you waiting while you’re on the phone for 20 minutes is not ideal.

A TCO does have the time and by spending time, great relationships are built, which means more referrals, reviews, retention, compliance and case acceptance.

Patients don’t always feel comfortable speaking to a dentist about their concerns or discussing home life. They feel their being judged by someone of authority.

The TCO is someone the patients can relate to, this overtime forms trust and your patients will be more than happy to recommend you to others.

I read a great quote recently: ‘The patient feels like they have spent lots of time with the dentist if they have a TCO.’

Free up your clinical time

‘I don’t have time’ is a key phrase I hear from dentists all the time. They don’t have time to do the bits they love, the clinical aspect of the job they trained to do.

One dentist friend of mine told me she would love to carry out more cosmetic dentistry but her diary is overrun with general treatment appointments or free consultations.

This was making her life miserable. Her passion for the job she loved was changing – fast!

A TCO frees up your valuable clinical time, I see all patients exploring treatment options before they see the clinician. This is offered as a complimentary consultation to discuss the patients concerns, their expectations and to discuss treatment options.

Once options have been discussed the patient proceeds to a paid clinical assessment with the dentist.

This means patients are somewhat committed already before they are sitting in the dental chair, meaning the dentist can concentrate more on treating patients. Sound good?

Never talk money again

Okay, you’re a dentist, you don’t want to be discussing payments.

You don’t have to!

As a TCO, I see all patients after they have seen the dentist. This is a great way for the patient to ask questions, but also means I can discuss how the patient wishes to pay, in an area away from the surgery and reception in private!

They may wish to apply for finance to fund their investment. They may need to wait until they are more financially stable to commence treatment. In addition, they will feel more comfortable discussing this in private with someone they can relate to.

This also gives me an opportunity to check the patient understands the potential treatment suggested, excellent for the consent process.

Having a dedicated TCO means your practice will see more treatment acceptance, offered in an ethical way.

As a TCO It’s a great feeling knowing that I can offer such an amazing service to my patients and my practice.

Thinking of employing a TCO? Create a business plan, find the right candidate, reap the rewards!

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