Assessing patient acceptance in 5 easy steps

Jan. 22, 2014
Kyle Summerford has some suggestions to help you better manage the time you spend with each patient in a way that may yield a higher case acceptance rate. Here, he sets forth a plan you can use to help you alleviate stress in a way that will hopefully lead to increased daily collections. 
Photo credit: A common question to ask yourself upon each new patient consultation is, "How much time should I be spending on this particular individual?

What if I told you using these five easy steps could alleviate some daily stress and help you to get a good night’s sleep? Would you implement these five simple steps into your practice? Of course you would!

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Below I will discuss how to effectively decrease the time you spend on invaluable patients, which will result in more time spent on patients that may yield a higher case acceptance rate. These steps will help you manage your time properly and, in turn, increase your daily collections.

We know that all dentists practice differently, and they all have a reason for practicing the ways they do, but why?

There are many major reasons given, but few are fully understood and managed properly. The three listed below are some of the most common reasons for dentists to be forced to run their practices a certain way.

  • Insurance (high overhead/low reimbursement rates) — resulting in loss of time and money
  • Internet shoppers (Internet shoppers skip from one office to the next looking for FREE consultations and cheap deals) — resulting in loss of time and money
  • Patient payment finance plans (high fees to the practice) — resulting in loss of time by providing long and drawn-out case presentations and in the end less money in your pocket

Maybe you are forced to practice a certain way because of the current state of our economy. Maybe your practice accepts a wide range of insurance plans that pay close to zero for a half-hour prophylaxis, while your hygienist’s hourly pay rate is more than what you'll receive from the insurance company. Or maybe you are spending your day pitching cases to the wrong patients. Here is a quick and effective way to assess your patient’s value. Ask yourself five simple questions. It may sound silly but these five W's — Who, What, Where, When, and Why — can help you get a quick assessment and evaluate your patient’s acceptance rate.

1. Let’s start with "Who?"

To get an understanding of who this patient is let’s take a look at the patient’s medical history form for a quick evaluation of the patient’s background. Financially speaking, here is where you should pay attention to everything that makes this person who he or she is.

2. "What"?

What does this patient do for a living? How much dentistry can he or she afford? Look specifically under the category "employer and occupation." Self-employed, associate, CEO, president, doctor are all good indications of affordability of more costly treatment plans, so don't be shy when presenting a more expensive treatment option to these patients.

3. "Where"?

Where does the patient reside? If you are familiar with the surrounding geographic areas of your practice location, then you'll know more or less what the patient’s choice of lifestyle living is and whether he or she owns a house or rents an apartment, which can be a good indicator of credit-worthiness.

4. "When"?

When was the last time this patient saw a dentist? Did the patient just see another dentist two days ago? This category should also be listed on the medical history form. If the patient saw another dentist recently, ask, "What was the dentist’s recommended treatment plan?" Be sure to ask this question to understand whether too much treatment was presented all at once, which could have bombarded the patient. This question can help you to be cautious and take more of a conservative approach with this particular individual.

5. Finally, "Why?"

Why is this patient here today? Why did he or she choose to come to your office? Are you running a special offer or promotion? If this patient has a regular dentist, he or she may just want the special you are offering and then be on the way never to return. Be sure to ask the patient to get an understanding as to why he or she left the previous dental office and seek out your expertise. Was it financial reasons, payment plan options, affordability? Are you the only dentist within a 50-mile radius that accepts his or her lowballing insurance plan?

This gathering of knowledge can help you get a full understanding of what type of patient you are serving. List these simple categories on your new-patient registration forms. If your forms are missing any of these, be sure to replace them immediately.

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Kyle L. Summerford received his B.S. from St. Johns University in Queens, N.Y., with a major in biology. Over the last 12 years of working in the dental field, he has learned the business aspects of dentistry from some of the most successful dentists located throughout the tristate area. He offers free online education to dentists and their staff members on his practice management website His innovative management and marketing strategies have been proven effective in minimizing overhead costs and increasing production and collections, leading to a healthy, successful dental practice. You may contact Mr. Summerford by email at [email protected], or via his website at