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How to Boost DSO Dental Case Acceptance Rates

October 23, 2023

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Simply put, a dental case acceptance rate measures the percentage of proposed treatments that patients accept. It provides insight on how effectively the dental office communicates the value of their proposed treatments to a patient. This, in turn, influences whether the patient proceeds with the recommended services.

In this article, we will discuss:

  1. The importance of a strong dental case acceptance rate
  2. How offering patient financing options impact the acceptance rate
  3. How AI software automates communication about financing
  4. How AI increases the rate of participation in financing
  5. Other factors that can lower the case acceptance rate and strategies to address them

First, let’s address the basics of case acceptance rates. The case acceptance rate is a critical aspect of DSO growth as it directly impacts:

  • Revenue
  • Productivity
  • Patient satisfaction
  • Staff morale
  • Scalability

A high case acceptance rate indicates that the DSO (Dental Service Organization) is successful in convincing patients of the necessity and benefits of the offered treatment, thus leading to an increase in completed treatments and revenue. This helps the DSO grow.

Moreover, a strong DSO case acceptance rate can increase patient trust and satisfaction. When patients agree to proceed with the treatment, it means they trust the dental professionals in the DSO and are satisfied with the services they receive. This builds a strong patient-dentist relationship, which is critical for patient retention and loyalty. It also leads to positive word-of-mouth and online reviews, further attracting more patients and fueling growth.

Therefore, the dental case acceptance rate serves as a crucial indicator of DSO performance. It plays a pivotal role in DSO management at both the practice and administrative level. In addition, the case acceptance rate helps DSOs:

  • Identify areas of improvement
  • Make informed decisions
  • Create effective business strategies

Significance of Increasing DSO Dental Case Acceptance Rates

A high case acceptance rate provides DSOs with a consistent and reliable income stream, thus boosting financial performance and sustainability. It also motivates and enhances the productivity of the dental team. Dentists and support staff thrive when they see their efforts resulting in improved patient health outcomes. This boosts morale and leads to better job performance, thereby positively influencing the overall operation of the DSO.

Enhancing case acceptance rates also helps DSO management plan more effectively. With a predictable and steady flow of accepted cases, DSOs can more accurately allocate resources, create schedules, and streamline operations.

Statistics on Dental Case Acceptance Rates

According to research by healthcare technology company Henry Schein, dental case acceptance ranges around 50%-60% for established patients, and 25%-35% for new patients.

The Levin Group estimates acceptance rates for two-thirds of U.S. dental practices fall between 20% and 50%, which is well below the common industry target of 90%.

Achieving a high close rate isn’t luck – it requires a system. Practices that enjoy 90% close rates provide every patient with a comprehensive exam, write scripts for presenting every procedure, role-play scripts to master them, and offer patient financing options. Given that few offices are following all of these steps, it’s not surprising that a majority of dentists (67.3%) are falling short of 90% case acceptance. (Dr. Roger P. Levin in Dental Economics)

Accessible Patient Financing is the Low-Hanging Fruit for Increasing Acceptance Rates

Research by the American Dental Association reveals that the number one reason people don’t seek dental treatment is cost. Due to this fact, offering patient financing options could have the greatest impact on a DSO’s case acceptance rate.

But simply offering financing is only the first step. The follow-through is just as important. Namely, the practice must communicate financing options to EVERY PATIENT at appropriate times. Then, to ensure maximum participation, the practice must make it easy for the patient to apply and qualify for the financing.

Let’s recap:

  1. The practice must offer financing options
  2. The practice must communicate this to every patient
  3. The practice must make it easy to apply and qualify for the financing

How to Leverage Patient Financing to Increase Case Acceptance

This is where AI can make all the difference. DSOs can customize AI-powered dental software to educate patients and allow them to apply for financing. This solution is easy to implement, fully automated and works around-the-clock.

Consider the following:

  1. AI communication software takes 100% of calls inside and outside of office hours
  2. It ensures that all callers learn about the financing options when they contact the practice
  3. It doesn’t require staff member involvement but can reinforce in-person discussions about financing
  4. Financing education can be triggered at multiple points in the booking and communication workflow and modified as needed

What is AI Communication Software?

In the dental industry, there are many players in the dental business software space. Under the umbrella “dental practice management” is a subset of tools for dental patient communication. The platforms have various features, but the functions pertinent to this discussion are:

  1. Automatically takes patient phone calls and continues the conversation via 2-way texting and website chat, and
  2. Enables patients to complete transactions via text or web chat without needing intervention or help from a staff member

Before we proceed, it’s important to understand the difference between conversational AI and a chatbot. A chatbot engages with predefined answers based on programmed rules. This severely limits its usefulness because patients can rarely complete their desired transaction. Customizable AI for DSOs uses conversational AI. A conversational AI bot engages in natural, complex, and personalized conversations.

As mentioned previously, an AI tool provides patient self-service for many administrative functions including:

  1. Booking or rescheduling an appointment
  2. Getting answers to questions about the practice and their services
  3. Verifying which insurance providers the DSO contracts with

Successful DSOs provide patients another critical self-serve option: Learn about financing options and access an application.

How Does it Work?

To illustrate AI and dental patient communication, let’s discuss a TrueLark client named SGA. This DSO uses TrueLark to serve patients through our AI-powered SMS bot. SGA has customized the pre-booking conversation flow to provide information about Sunbit (SGA’s financing provider) and allow the patient to apply for financing.

When a patient calls a practice in the SGA network, TrueLark AI answers the phone and asks the patient if they want to move the conversation to texting. (The vast majority of patients opt in.) In the text thread, TrueLark asks the patient what they want to do. These options may vary according to individual practice policies, but the following are common transactions:

  1. Schedule an appointment
  2. Reschedule an appointment
  3. Check insurance coverage
  4. Learn about financing options

If the patient chooses “learn about our financing options,” TrueLark sends a link to the Sunbit information and application. It’s a surprisingly simple but extremely effective way to increase financing participation among the SGA patient base. SGA practices can also provide the Sunbit information at other touchpoints such as when a treatment plan is presented in person or when a staff member follows up with the patient via a live phone conversation or texting.

Bottom line? Increased participation in financing has boosted SGA’s case acceptance rate significantly.

Why is an SMS Link so Effective?

Consider the advantages of AI-delivered financing information:

  1. Patient financing education is not dependent on each staff member remembering to offer it when interacting with patients
  2. An AI-bot is ideal for patients who may hesitate to ask a live staff member about financing because it’s an awkward conversation and they may worry about having their application denied
  3. The dental practice can customize the language and cadence of financing-related messages to suit the patient demographics and business needs

Additional Factors that Impact Case Acceptance

Suppose your DSO already offers financing but still has a relatively low case acceptance rate. Let’s discuss the causes and potential solutions.

Lack of Patient Trust or Insufficient Education

Patients may decline treatment if they don’t trust their dentist or understand the importance of the suggested procedure. Likewise, if the DSO’s staff isn’t properly educating patients about the importance of the procedures, patients may decline treatment.

Solution: Enhanced Communication and Education

This is a fundamental technique for improving close rates. Dentists must be able to convey the importance of a proposed treatment and its impact on the patient’s dental health. Furthermore, they should be able to explain the procedure in layman’s terms to ensure the patient fully understands what would be involved.

Providing patients with more knowledge about their dental condition and the proposed treatment plan can enhance their understanding and trust. Use of visual aids such as models, diagrams, or images can be particularly effective.

Time and Convenience

Patients may decline treatment if they feel it would be too time-consuming or inconvenient to their daily routines.

Solution: 24/7 Text-to-Book

An AI communications platform syncs with your PMS scheduling calendar to help patients see available time slots and schedule their appointments via text. They can do this at their convenience any time, night or day. Granted, this may not be a solution for every patient, but many practices see an increase in close rates when they make it easy for the patient to schedule and re-schedule.

Poor Customer Service

If patients are not treated well or the front desk staff is too busy to give personalized attention, patients may be less likely to move forward with proposed treatment. Likewise, if patients who call have to leave a voice mail and wait for a call back, it will most certainly reduce acceptance rates. Research shows that the majority of people won’t leave a voice mail, so an inability to answer every phone call is a significant barrier to increasing acceptance rates.

Solution: AI Communication

AI gives consistent, attentive customer service 24/7 and ensures that your practice never misses a call. TrueLark even prioritizes necessary follow-up calls by level of urgency. This helps your front desk team provide outstanding service to a large patient base. And it’s important to understand that capable AI doesn’t just serve the patients who opt in. It also benefits the patients who prefer in-person interaction because it frees front desk staff to give the type of service that increases close rates. In addition, when the majority of patients can complete their desired transactions through self-service AI, your front desk team can also better serve patients who want to talk to a live person over the phone.

Lack of Follow-Up

Dental treatment is a significant investment for many people. Because of this, patients often take days or weeks to make their decision. If there’s no follow-up from the DSO’s side, the patient may not proceed with the dental work.

Solution: AI Follow-Up

AI-powered messaging tools track necessary follow-ups, sort by level of urgency and automate the communication.

Conclusion

We encourage DSO executives to evaluate their current tactics and establish clear action strategies towards higher case acceptance rates. By embracing the power of TrueLark’s AI-powered patient communication software and customizing it to your needs, you can reach a new level of success, growth and profitability.

To learn more, book a TrueLark demo today.

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