Why Your Dental Practice Needs a Membership Plan

marketing new patients the best practices show podcast Oct 26, 2020

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Over the past few weeks, we've been taking a hard look at the world of dental insurance benefits.  So many of you have reached out, telling me that you’re ready to take the power, and the profits back!

As you begin to gather your data and formulate your plan, don’t forget to research the benefits of an in-house membership plan. A great place to start is with my interview from the Best Practices Show Podcast with Dave Monahan, where we discuss the amazing benefits that these plans offer!

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If you need more guidance as you begin to analyze your data, don’t forget that my team and I are always here to help, schedule a call today.

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Many dentists are struggling to find payment solutions that fit both their patients and their practice. With PPOs tightening reimbursements, dentists are struggling to manage a profitable practice while they’re dependent on insurance. They’re unhappy with the limitations that come with insurance, but don’t have a plan for addressing this issue. A membership plan can help your practice generate more revenue while helping patients afford the treatment they need.

A membership plan is a care plan that dentists offers directly to their patients. The practice has full control of what’s in the care plan including the discount, treatment protocol and fee schedule to design a program that makes the most sense for the practice.

The value proposition of a membership plan

Membership plans are designed to meet the needs of everyone involved in your practice. Uninsured patients receive the healthcare they need at a price they can afford. Insured patients don’t feel like the insurance company is about to “get” them with hidden fees. With more patients receiving treatment, the practice becomes more profitable.

One of the key benefits of a membership plan is tapping into your uninsured patient base. Uninsured patients are hesitant to walk through your doors: 75 percent of uninsured patients don’t go to the dentist because they aren’t covered. The issue isn’t that they think dental care is too expensive, but rather that they have no idea how much it will cost.

The average uninsured patient visits the dentist once every two years, while the average insured patient visits 1.4 times per year. When uninsured patients do visit, they accept half the amount of treatment insured patients accept.

Research shows that uninsured patients highly value their oral care. They equate oral health to their overall quality of life and their lifespan. When uninsured patients have a membership plan, they come in at almost exactly the same rate as insured patients and accept treatment as often. Because the patient is paying via membership plan rather than via insurance, the short fees the dental practice collects are 50 to 75 percent higher than for insured patients.

A membership plan isn’t a discount for discount’s sake; a membership plan offers patients a good deal that encourages them to come in more often and accept treatment to improve their care.

Designing a membership plan for your practice

Every membership plan will vary depending on the practice’s patient demographics and the services it offers. A typical plan might cover basic preventive care – two cleanings and exams per year and an x-ray – and offer a discount for other treatments like crowns and fillings.

What’s affordable varies across patients and across practices. The key is making pricing transparent: patients are much more likely to consider your plan affordable if they understand the fee schedule.

Two key factors impact pricing: where your practice is located and what your goal is for your membership plan. Some practices want as many patients using the membership plan as possible, so they offer deep discounts knowing that the higher traffic and higher treatment acceptance rates will more than cover the discount. Other practices offer membership at a premium and make it a profitable business within their practice.

Your practice will need to decide whether it offers memberships with a monthly subscription, yearly subscription or both. Again, it depends on your practice goals and patient base. Older patients like to pay annually because they have disposable income and aren’t used to the subscription model, while millennial patients have less disposable income and are comfortable spreading their payments out over time. Offering both allows the best chance to meet a range of patient needs.

Patient renewal rate for a membership plan is about 85 percent. If you set up your membership plan with an autorenewal option most patients will stay with your plan, creating a solid revenue stream for your practice. Having patients renew their membership with you year after year also means you’re building a real patient base. Unlike joining an insurance network, the patients in your membership program are actual recurring patients.

Membership plans benefit patients

Uninsured patients are eager for the coverage a membership plan provides, but what constitutes coverage for one patient may not meet another patient’s needs.

Patients typically expect four things from coverage:

  • Preventive care included and a discount on other treatments as a benefit of being a member
  • Simple sign up so that interested patients can join right now on their phone without a waiting period and piles of paperwork.
  • No hassle for using their membership – no forms, no claims and no reimbursements
  • Transparent pricing illustrating how the membership plan helps patients save

Unlike traditional dental insurance, membership plans offer transparency and ease – often at a price lower than what a patient pays for a year of insurance. Unlike insurance, memberships are also available to patients regardless of employment status or income.

Membership plans benefit your practice

Membership plans make it easier for patients to do business with you. Think about when you need your car repaired: the mechanic says you need some part you’ve never heard of replaced and it’ll cost $2,500. You either say yes and feel ripped off or say no and worry your car will break down. Your uninsured patients have a similar feeling about accepting treatment.

The membership plan makes it easier for them to say yes, benefitting your patients and your practice. Because it’s easier to do business with you, members who are patients accept more treatment. Patients will accept 50 to 75 percent more treatment with a membership plan. Under a membership plan, uninsured patients behave more like insured patients.

With a membership plan structure, your patients are also more loyal. With their membership they’re more likely to return to your practice and not go to the practice down the street. They’ll also come in more often to feel they’re getting value from the membership they’ve purchased. Once that base is secure, dentists need to reinforce the loyalty by providing great service and thanking patients for being members. Some practices offer their members freebies, while others offer a free cleaning for signing up in-office – perks that may inspire envious patients to become members too.

Over time, a membership plan allows dentists to break away from insurance control. A membership plan allows dentists to set their own protocols and fee schedules. The relationship is directly between the dentist and the patients, and without having to worry about insurance the dentist is able to recommend the right treatment for the patient.

Membership plans aren’t just about a transaction between you and your patients to generate more revenue – although that is a benefit. Membership plans are good for you and good for your patients to help them achieve the care they need in the smoothest way possible.

About the author

Dave Monahan is the CEO of Kleer and has a passion for creating technology-enabled businesses that improve people’s lives. Prior to joining Kleer, Dave served as the President and CEO of FitLinxx, where he created simple, affordable and connected wearable devices for the medical and sports markets. Dave is a graduate of the Pennsylvania State University and Loyola University, and resides in the Greater Philadelphia area.

 

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