Written by: Dr. Sarah Kong, D.D.S. (Dallas County Dental Society Member)
Patients are consumers and they are constantly searching for new ways to afford treatment when there is a lack of dental insurance or when frustrations arise from traditional dental insurance plans providing less than optimal coverage. Membership plans are designed to be offered to patients who lack insurance coverage or are searching for better dental coverage options. Patients can pay a monthly or annual fee directly to the practice for preventive care and discounts off of restorative treatment. Many practices are creating their own programs or partnering with third-party companies to provide this service.
There are many benefits to utilizing a dental membership program that help your practice financially and your patients clinically. Having an in-office membership plan can help gain new patients, strengthen loyalty, increase treatment acceptance and help remove any barriers to accessing dental care. Membership plans are easy for patients to understand, so the question, “Does my insurance pay for that?” goes out the window. In-office membership plans are transparent and leave patients with black-and-white information regarding coverage. Treatment acceptance for fee-for-service patients also increases due to the treatment discount that can be offered. People like discounts and are often encouraged by them in addition to the fact that they value their dental treatment. An in-office dental membership plan may be the answer to help patients avoid having to leave for another practice that accepts their insurance or having to go for years without proper dental care due to a lack of insurance coverage.
Limitations and guidelines of membership plans are decided by each office. Decide what the structure of your plan will be to fit your practice and patient needs such as whether to offer two different tier membership plans. For example, offering one membership that has two prophylaxis appointments and one that has four periodontal maintenance appointments allows you to cater to two different kinds of patients. There are also many third-party companies, such as Illumitrac, BoomCloud and DentalHQ, that can be used to help attract, track and retain membership.
Implementation and promotion is the next step. Educate your staff of the plan benefits. Roll it out on social media channels. Be sure to post the details to your website. Speak with local business owners and HR departments to educate them about this option for dental benefits that may help them attract or retain loyal employees. Share with your patients so they can consider this option when reviewing their dental benefits for the next year. Have a nice, laminated copy to show patients when reviewing treatment plans. Show patients the full fee for the procedure in one column and the discounted fee in a second column. Showing patients their savings helps create trust and loyalty and encourages them to feel like their investment in their health with your practice is their best option.
Creating and growing an in-house membership program or savings plan is one of the best ways to grow and retain your patients, reduce your dependency on insurance companies and to add more revenue streams to your dental practice. It can help create a fee-for-service practice, develop loyal patients, increase treatment acceptance, and remove patient barriers. Implementing an in-office plan that fits your practice can take time, but in the long run it will help grow your patient base and help your patients become healthier. Having this option may be a huge component of dental care in the future. So, get growing now!