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Improving case acceptance with general vs. specialty patients

Note: The Dawson Academy uses the term "specialty patient" in place of "complex care patient" , as well as "general patient" in place of "modest patient".

I remember my first experiences with case acceptance were good ones. I was fresh out of the United State Navy and the 2 years I practiced there served me well. I opened a small practice in rural North Carolina and new patients rolled in on day one. I did amalgams, anterior composites, a few crowns, and lots of extractions. Nothing fancy; just good old bread and butter dentistry. Patients paid me and life was good. Case acceptance was easy. I’d do an exam, tell patients what they needed, how I’d do it, and they’d say yes.

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Discovering specialty patients in my practice

However, all this changed when I started offering more complex care; restorative dentistry, full and partial dentures, and dental implants. I discovered my bread and butter case acceptance process of here’s what you need and here’s how I’ll do it stopped working. The fee threshold where it stopped working was in the $3500 to $5000 range. I blamed the patient, repeating to myself what I’d heard so many times during practice management lectures; low dental IQ.

Doctor's patient IQ or patient's dental IQ

Get patients to own their dental problems by raising their dental IQ. I tried this but the more I tried, the more I felt I was headed down the wrong path. I was losing far too many patients to sticker shock. It didn’t take me long to realize I was the one with the dental problem and needed to raise my patient IQ. I started spending less time telling patients what they needed and more time discovering how all of it needed to fit within their lives. I learned to talk to patients about their budgets, work schedules, and family issues. Did all of this work getting patients to say yes? No, it didn’t. But it kept specialty patients in my practice and overtime, when my dentistry fit into their budgets and life events, they’ve returned to me for complete care.

Case acceptance is not a homogenous process

General patients whose total care fees are less than $3500 usually respond well to the patient education raise the dental IQ model.

Specialty patients, with fees greater than $3500, respond far better to discovering and understanding how care must fit into their lives. Most general dentists who practice complex care also have abundant modest care patients.

Case acceptance is not a one-size-fits-all process. Having two different new patient and case acceptance processes will enable you to serve and influence both your general and specialty patients. The case acceptance process is situational just like restorative dentistry. You don’t have just one way of prepping teeth, or treating periodontal conditions, or building anterior guidance. You do what’s best for the patients. Case acceptance is no different. Thanks for listening.

To learn more about patient communication, join fellow Dawson Academy Colleagues in Dr. Homoly's online course, Making it Easy for Patients to say Yes! Join Here!How to get higher dental treatment acceptance rates

Photo by Micaela Parente on Unsplash