by Brett Wells, DDS
When it comes down to it, we became dentists because we are passionate about the care and keeping of teeth and how oral health positively impacts the overall health of our patients. It’s certainly why I got into the profession—I wanted to be a great dentist (still do).
But, what I quickly learned upon starting my practice 12 years ago is that we can’t just be that. We also have to be businesspeople.
For many of us, this can present a frustrating dilemma: juggling a focus on the purpose of the trade with a need to bring home the bacon. And this is what first attracted me to dental membership plans.
You see, I have a group of practices in North Carolina, and when I began to realize just how much my colleagues and I grappled with all that juggling, I ended up a tad obsessed. All I kept thinking was, “There has to be a solution.” That mindset and the journey to finding a fix led me to the idea of dental membership plans. A more hands-off way of keeping money flowing in the background, they enable us dentists to keep our attention on the patients. They make the business side of things just a touch more effortless.
I also soon realized that the tasks associated with building dental membership programs could be automated to great effect, saving time and money, which is how DentalHQ came to be.
All of that put together—easier to juggle business and clinical effort, saving time and money, and consistent revenue flow—leads to better financial health for our practices.
Financial health for our practices. Seems like a strange term, doesn’t it?
We’re often so focused on the health of our patients that we sometimes lose sight of the health of our practices. Just like with oral health, practice health is usually best achieved with consistent activities over time, and I’ve found that dental membership plans check a lot of those boxes.
Today, I want to highlight a few important ways dental membership plans will help to maintain your practice’s financial health, allowing you to be a more effective businessperson and dentist. Because we’re all in this together, and we all want more time to devote to our patients.
Membership plans increase patient consistency.
With dental membership plans, we can better serve those who don’t have insurance. They become members, so they become attached to your practice, so they are less likely to leave, so it helps you to grow your practice. I’ve seen this firsthand with my own uninsured patients.
The benefit here is two-fold. New patients are enticed by the idea of more digestible payments and appealing discounts on additional procedures, so membership plans will help you attract new patients. And once they become members, they are more likely to stick around, so membership plans will help you retain the uninsured patients you already have. Attract & Retain is the name of the game.
The National Association of Dental Plans has been quoted backing me up on this:
“Americans with dental benefits are more likely to go to the dentist, take their children to the dentist, receive restorative care and experience greater overall health, according to the National Association of Dental Plans (NADP) report, The Haves and the Have-Nots: Consumers with and without Dental Benefits.”
Altogether, this means that dental membership plans will simultaneously grow and maintain your patient base. All while you just keep on doing what you do best. Sounds good, doesn’t it?
I’d also like to touch on something the NADP mentioned there …
Membership plans result in more restorative treatment.
At my practice, our uninsured patients on dental membership plans approve treatment more often than those not on membership plans. They agree to bigger cases and undergo more treatment because of the discounts.
While it is up to you whether or not you include a discount as part of your dental membership plan, I have seen fantastic results from doing so. I would estimate that my members are as much as 50% more likely to approve treatment upon diagnosis.
Of course, this is good news for us, our team, and our patients. Through dental membership plans, we can provide a solution that enables those without insurance to more effectively pay for restorative care.
Customized plans anticipate patient needs.
You know your patient population better than anyone. A customizable dental maintenance plan helps you anticipate their needs. For example, if folks tend to walk in the door with gum issues, your practice may want to include periodontal services in your plan. When a patient already sees you for routine perio cleanings, they’ll receive a discount on more significant work they’re already prepared to pay for.
Membership plans separate payments from visits.
Most of us operate on a six-month recall schedule—those reappointments create revenue consistency. And that’s a problem. We’re counting on our patients’ schedules (and reliability) to create stable income. Uninsured patients, with no “free” visits covered by insurance, are less likely to see you every six months. Membership plans change the math, because you’re getting paid for two visits a year regardless.
Once I realized this, I recognized just how much of a game changer this is for my practice’s financial health. Consistent payment means that we won’t see a dip in the company account if ever there is a slow month for appointments.
When your patients sign up for a dental membership plan, they agree to a monthly or yearly fee. You can decide if you’ll offer it one way or both, but regardless, that money will be automatically charged as scheduled.
If they forget about their cleaning and have to reschedule, you’re already getting paid. If their kid wakes up with a fever and they need to move their appointment, you’re already getting paid. If they decide they’d rather come see you next month, you’re already getting paid. So long as your membership plan is automated, you’ll also keep getting paid, always in a timely manner.
Yeah, it rocks. And, there’s more.
Membership plans allow your team members to make better use of their time.
No third party is deciding how much I get paid, so no third party is influencing my patient’s decision on whether to accept a procedure or come back in six months for a cleaning. That is between me and my patient.
Not only does this build a great relationship with patients, but it also impacts my team in a hugely positive way. When they don’t have to spend hours going back and forth with insurance companies or hounding patients for late payments, they have the bandwidth to take on other tasks that can be far more beneficial to the practice.
Maybe one of your team members is savvy with the social. Now that their schedule is free from so much follow-up, they could staff the devices and contribute to building your practice’s online presence, which is increasingly important to marketing efforts. Maybe a team member has an eye for interior design and wants to head up a refresh of the waiting room.
Imagine what your team could think up if they had whole days dedicated to brainstorming inventive ideas. Whether for bringing in new patients, or making the experience of existing patients even better to ensure they’ll tell everyone they know how great your practice is, empowering your team to think creatively will result in increased team morale and increased practice revenue. I’ve seen it happen.
And you didn’t even have to hire anyone! You just helped your team find the time to utilize their talents.
For these reasons, and many others, I saw the immense potential of dental membership plans to maintain the financial health of my practice. Further, creating a membership platform in DentalHQ gives me a solution that streamlines it so effectively that it remains the simple, hands-off technique it was meant to be, no matter how many members you add.