Dental Office New Patients Take Priority
Dental office new patients bring new life and new energy to the dental practice. But this is a team effort. At least if you want to do this well! The entire team must learn proper telephone skills. The idea is that anyone on the team can answer the phone well. And that there is always a trained team member at the phone. One missed call could be a missed new patient!
How many new patients do you lose each day? Because you just can’t get to the phone quick enough? Or maybe because the “Please Hold” greeting is not really what your patients want to hear. You might not even know what you don’t know! Just a little tune up on your dental office phone skills.. and you might just see your new patient numbers rise!
Download New Patient Intake Form
Once you have the phone skills down, the next step is to gather your new patient’s information. The goal is to get the information you need in as little time as possible. And naturally, you want to make some conversation too. Try to take a moment to get to know your patient a little. It’s important to make a connection as soon as you can in this first call.
Get your patient’s name and phone number first! Before anything else, you need a name and phone number. Then, greet your patient warmly by name. And repeat their phone number to be sure. It is also a good idea to ask if the number they have given you is a cell phone. And are they okay to receive text messages?
Then get their email address and mailing address. Anything that can be emailed should be! There is no additional postage or time required to get information to patients with email. And you might even want to provide your patient with your email address. This might take some additional phone calls from you. Emails can be answered throughout the day as time permits. But must also be handled promptly and courteously.
A Brief Dental History Is Very Helpful Information
Notice I have said a brief dental history is helpful. There are some things that you need to know. Has it been 3 months or 3 years since this person has seen a dentist? And then you want to know who their dentist was. At last try to get the dentist’s name and location. You can certainly do a search for the phone number if needed. (This is when the patient’s email address is helpful. As you can email a release form to them to sign and send back to you. Then you can forward onto their previous dentist for any recent x-rays).
Does the patient require immediate dental care? Would their first appointment with you be to treat a dental emergency? If so.. what exactly is the problem. And how long as the problem been going on? Is there pain? What kind of pain? Intermittent? Pain with pressure? Or maybe temperature sensitivity? Does the patient have swelling? Where is the swelling? Maybe they describe a jaw problem. Be sure to gather as much clinical information here as you can.
What are their hygiene needs? If your patient does not have a pressing emergency, ask about their hygiene history. Have they been on a regular 6 month recall schedule. Or are their hygiene visits more frequent? Does the patient remember having any periodontal treatment? And again, when was their last hygiene appointment? Are they due now? Or are they overdue?
Dental Insurance Information
Dental office new patients with insurance take a little more work. Especially if they have had the same policy with another dentist. And this can be even more tricky if you are in the middle of a coverage year. There are some tricky things to watch out for. And you don’t want to make a mistake here with your new patient. It could destroy any trust they establish with you right away.
If your patient doesn’t have their insurance information when they call, ask them to send it to you. If they can email you a copy of their insurance card, that’s fabulous. But even if they can just send you the basic information you need, that will get you started. You definitely want to gather some information before your patient’s first appointment. And the sooner the better!
Start with the name of the company and their phone number. Some insurance companies have a different phone number for providers. Then you need to know who the subscriber on the policy is. It might not be the patient. You will need the date of birth of the subscriber if it is not your patient. And you will always need the date of birth of the patient. Most insurance companies use an alternate member ID#. However, some do not. If they don’t have an alternate ID#, then you need their social security number. Or the social security number of the subscriber should it not be the patient!
Sometimes, patients don’t want to give out their social security number. Encourage your patient to call the insurance company themselves to get an alternate ID#. There is only so much you can do. And you need an ID# or social security number to move forward.
Dental Insurance Verification Download
Now, you want to call to get a breakdown of benefits. There are some very important questions you need answers to. First, of course, is this an active policy. You also want to get the effective date of the policy. Go ahead and down load my insurance verification form. And let’s take a look!
You may need to get some basic information first. This will depend on when your patient is scheduled and how much time you have. As you can see, there are lots of questions to ask the insurance carrier. But the most important pieces of information are:
- Effective Date ?
- Annual Maximum ?
- Is the Maximum a Calendar Year or Fiscal Year ?
- What Has Been Used To Date – & What Remains?
- Is There A Deductible? Has it been met? What does it apply to?
- Is Patient Eligible For An Initial Exam, Emergency Exam, FMX or Panorex?
Naturally, the more information you can gather in one phone call the better. But if you need to back to get additional information, at least have this info. As you enter the insurance information in the patient’s account, be sure to update the maximum and deductible amounts. This will help when creating treatment plans and estimating the day’s out-of-pocket expenses.
Dental Office New Patients & Cross-Training
Often, I hear dentists talk about cross-training. They talk about how much they would like a front office team member who could also help in the back if needed. I can certainly understand the importance of that thought. And the dentist works in the back. They can see every minute of the day what is really happening there. But what about what’s happening at the front end?
I also encourage cross-training of dental assistants to the front office. This is especially true in a small dental practice. The dental front office is where the schedule happens. There isn’t anything happening in the back office if the front office isn’t functioning. And the phones are just one small piece of this. Yes, you definitely want your new patient calls handled well. And the more of your team that can do this well, the better! Dental office new patients are priceless!