Unwelcome Surprises with Extra Treatment Costs

Let’s assume your dental patient has been properly informed about treatment and agreed in writing to estimated out-of-pocket costs. Now the patient is receiving treatment for a crown; however an additional cavity is noted on an adjacent tooth that was not obvious in the x-ray. The patient is informed about the additional filling and agrees to have it completed. At this point, the clinical team may believe all is well and the patient will be grateful for the extra care.

However, what happens when the patient goes up front and learns an additional amount is due because of the extra work? It depends. While some patients are okay with it, many are not, especially if they are financially sensitive. The same patient who was agreeable in the chair may turn into an angry patient who leaves a negative review about the practice. Patients do not appreciate surprises that impact their pocketbook.

Surprise Money

When patients agree to treatment in the absence of a cost estimate, the dentist and team put themselves into a potential no-win situation. The reward for completing extra treatment in an effort to save patients time is an erosion of goodwill caused by sticker shock. What may seem like a great service by the clinical team may turn into a big headache for the practice.

Therefore, it is important to establish a protocol where additional treatment is not rendered without a signed financial agreement. This means the clinical team needs to clearly communicate with the front team to ensure a prompt and accurate financial estimate is created before treatment has started. Even though it’s an extra step, you strengthen patient relationships by explaining extra costs ahead of time. Then everyone involved will avoid unwelcome surprises.

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