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DT U.S. Edition, November 2010, Vol. 5, No. 22

DENTAL TRIBUNE | November 2010 Industry News 11A patient. What is it worth to you to know that your patient/parent has, for his entire life, paid all of his/her bills per- fectly? Conversely, what is it worth to you to know that this person has never paid a bill and has been sued by every credit grantor in town? Seventy-five percent of most prac- tices’ new patients are in the low to zero financial risk category, what we call “A” patients. Twenty-five percent are in the moderate to high-risk cat- egory, “B” and “C” patients. Take the In many practices, the amount of treatment diagnosed that remains unscheduled is huge, often exceeding six months of normal production. Case acceptance in many offices is less than 40 percent and the average across the country is less than 60 percent (calculate total work diagnosed in the past year; calculate total dentist [non- hygiene] work done in the past year; work done divided by work diagnosed is your rate of case acceptance). That is a lower rate of case acceptance than what the profession had 30 years ago, yet too many dentists have accepted today’s rate as the norm and therefore believe that their only path to growth is more new patients. A never-ending search for more new patients is rarely the solution to greater production or to greater profitability. Instead, the answer is to increase the percentage of diagnosed work that your patients schedule. Note that I did not say work that your patients “accept.” Every month den- tists see thousands of dollars of accept- ed diagnoses go out the door, never to be actually scheduled and completed. The responsibility of the dentist is to make it easy for his/her clients (patients) to buy the product (dental care) that he/she sells (diagnoses). However, far too many dentists have forgotten or perhaps never understood that 80 percent of patients/parents cannot afford to write a check for $3,000, $5,000 or more (sometimes much more). In addition, what about the rock solid blue-collar family with five kids that just had to fix the transmission in the family car? Can this family even afford to write you a check for $800 today? All too often the answer is no. Dental practices’ aggressive finan- cial policies, the insistence on payment in full, and the almost futile efforts to push patients into outside financing, have done more to kill case acceptance than any other single factor. And then, a recession comes along. Our advice to our clients, since 1980, has been to be negotiable and flex- ible with respect to financial arrange- ments. If $0 down payment and 4, 6, or even 9 month financing is necessary in order to get a patient to accept the entire diagnosis, and if the responsible party is credit worthy, then grant that type of in-office credit to your patients. Are you really willing to lose a $5,000 or more case because your patient/ parent cannot afford to pay you in full or cannot afford the 50 percent down payment you are asking for? Notice the key phrase above is “if the patient is credit worthy.” There is nothing worse for the quality of life within the practice than to get into a negative financial relationship with a financially weak patient. Missed appointments, poor clinical coopera- tion, zero referrals, etc., are always the result. So, while it makes sense to be finan- cially liberal with quality patients, it is a major mistake to do so with patients/ parents who are immature, unstable, and/or unwilling to or incapable of keeping their financial agreements. Fortunately, with modern electron- ics and communications, in less than 60 seconds a practice can make a high-quality credit decision identifying the potential financial risk of any given time to find out which of your patients are in which category. Grant credit proportional to that risk and you will improve your production, your profit- ability and your quality of life within the practice. Various products are available to help you assess risk as described above. Consider the Zuelke Automated Credit Coach (ZACC), a web-based tool specifically designed for the den- AD Improve production, profitability and your quality of life! By Paul Zuelke g DT page 12A