So, you’ve heard about dental membership plans. Whether the concept first came to you via word of mouth, web search, or journal article, you’ve probably at least thought about how they might fit into your practice. Along the way, you might have seen a few confusing, or even conflicting, bits of information.
And if you have no idea what we’re talking about, then you have stumbled upon the perfect post to start off with, because we’re going to explore and explain some of the most common misconceptions about dental membership plans.
MISCONCEPTION #1: “It’s just a savings plan.”
No … no it’s not.
While “Membership Plan” and “Savings Plan” both contain the word “plan,” they’re two entirely different concepts.
A savings plan is more like paying for coupons—the patient pays someone (either you or, more frequently, a third party) for the privilege of getting discounts off of treatment, which doesn’t do a whole lot for them or their dentist.
Patients will soon realize that the money those coupons save them doesn’t always outweigh what they’re spending to get them. Most of us have had this epiphany once or twice, and it isn’t a fun one. It’s frustrating.
From the perspective of you, the dentist, savings plans are an okay-but-comparatively-inadequate feature in any practice. Sure, they might entice new patients, but what happens when the practice up the street gets hip to the trend and offers a slightly more appealing coupon program to compete? Savings plans don’t inspire patient loyalty, and perhaps this is a reason for one of the dental profession’s biggest problems. According to Dental Intelligence, patient attrition averages around 25% for most practices. With the average lifetime value of a patient being around $12,000, losing a quarter of your patients each year can add up to millions of dollars in lost profits.
And this isn’t just a problem for dentists. The patient suffers from dentist-hopping, too. After all, both preventive and restorative care are at their best when the patient and dentist have a good relationship and case familiarity.
So how can dental membership plans help everyone achieve just that? For starters, they are exclusive to a practice. This means that you can decide what features should be included in your plans based on what you know your patients need. Your patients will then discover that one or more of your plans is the perfect fit for them and their family.
When that happens, it’s a win-win for everyone. The practice gets paid regularly, and the patient receives consistent care that is informed by a long-term understanding of their needs and history.
Now, what’s next? Ah, yes, a big one...
MISCONCEPTION #2: “I’ll have to discount my fees.”
Ehh, that depends on how you look at it, and if you don’t explore the full picture, you could be missing out. Firstly, this doesn’t have to be true, because as mentioned, one of the beautiful things about dental membership plans is that they are custom to your practice.
But beyond that, a discounting of fees as part of a membership plan is very likely to bring in profit like you’ve never seen before. It’s a model that has been proven to work, so losing a few bucks on certain procedures is actually a smart investment.
Let’s say you add up typical preventive costs, shave the price down just a touch, and call that number your membership fee. Yes, your members will be getting their preventive appointments for a lower rate, but their payments are also now decoupled from their treatments, so you get paid promptly every month or every year for their two annual visits—no matter what.
Currently, you have to get those patients back in for each unique visit and some inevitably go incommunicado, which means lost money. Dental membership plans are also great for attracting and retaining new patients—affordable health care is a big thing—so your practice is likely to experience a boom in revenue after starting one.
This becomes even more relevant when you consider the insurance factor. According to the National Association of Dental Plans, some 74 million Americans had no dental coverage in 2016. Given recent economic and employment shifts, it is reasonable to assume that this number has actually jumped higher. You can see how establishing a dental membership plan would give your practice an untouched patient base to tap into. Not to mention you’d be offering a solution—in some cases a life-changing one—to people who can’t access it otherwise.
The insurance element ties nicely into:
MISCONCEPTION #3: “It will create a lot of work for my team.”
Actually, the opposite is true!
Many dental practices have dedicated insurance coordinators—that’s how much time and attention is given to tracking down claims and playing phone tag with agents for policy explanations. When a patient is on a membership plan instead, this often-infuriating part of the process is completely removed from the equation.
Still, you’re probably thinking about the plethora of tasks and techniques you might have to iron out at the beginning—indeed, your team will need to spend time on this if you choose to administer the membership plan in-house. But, after that initial process, they won’t have to hound as many patients for payments or punch in as many different payment amounts. They’ll just be processing standard monthly payments from those membership fees.
Plus, you can eliminate even more work for your team by using a software service, like, say, DentalHQ (wink, wink). Our systems are totally automated, so everything is taken care of for you.
More than a savings plan, designed to increase your long-term profits, and a way to help your team be more efficient—dental membership plans are a solution that works hard for you and your patients behind the scenes.