Since joining DPAS in 2013 my role as practice consultant has been to guide and support our existing and new clients through the implementation and running of practice-branded dental plans across Scotland. I’m based in Edinburgh and have a busy, but really enjoyable role that involves a lot of travelling, and for me there is no such thing as a typical working day.
I come from a dental background, initially qualifying as a dental nurse with a special interest in surgical dentistry. I later joined the NHS Education for Scotland decontamination team, which was responsible for the delivery of mandatory decontamination training to practices across the country in accordance with Scottish Dental Clinical Effectiveness Programme (SDCEP) guidelines, so have plenty of additional experience and knowledge to share with our clients.
I deal with all types of clients, from mixed practices with a majority of NHS patients and just a few on plan, through to fully private practices that are predominantly plan only. The main challenge for plan providers in Scotland is that all basic NHS dental treatment here is free – free examinations and prescriptions for everyone, regardless of age or circumstances. As a consequence many patients’ first questions when offered a dental plan is: ‘Why do I need it?’ and ‘Will I get a free check-up?’
Communicating the benefits
Part of my role is about showing the practice team, as well as their patients, the benefits of being on a dental plan. The NHS in Scotland offers a really good service and people can be very reluctant to move away from it, but a plan offers patients so much more. The benefits include longer appointment times with their dentist, so they are not just ‘in and out’ in 10-minutes, as well as hygienist appointments, which is a service that many Scottish NHS practices don’t offer. Private practices with a regular monthly income from plan patients are also able to invest more into new equipment and materials, and there is the added bonus of supplementary dental injury and emergency insurance, offering peace of mind with cover for unexpected bills resulting from dental emergencies.
Promoting your practice brand
The most refreshing change I have seen during my time in dentistry is that practices are no longer scared of promoting themselves. Over the years, many practices have become used to hiding behind a national brand image, but more and more are now embracing the opportunity to promote their own brand and not be dictated to by a third party. They have their own identity and want, in fact need, to stand out from the crowd. With over 18 years’ experience in providing practice dental plans, DPAS is here to give confidence to practices who want to promote their brand and everything we do is designed to help them achieve this.
How it works
Once a practice decides to come on board with DPAS my first job is to arrange a planning meeting. This helps me to find out exactly what they want the plan to achieve and gives us the opportunity to discuss treatment fees and the content of the plan as well as logistics and timing. Each practice decides on its own fees, not us. We can offer plenty of advice of course, but our policy is to never try and dictate what any practice should do.
No matter whether the practice is introducing a plan for the first time or transferring from another provider, we collect and process all the necessary data, design all the practice-branded collateral and inform patients of the details of the plan on behalf of the practice, taking care of any mailings, as required. At the same time as the mailing is distributed, I visit the practice to give a lunch-and-learn staff training session, so everyone in the team is aware of what DPAS is all about, what the new plan includes and how to deal with any questions and queries. I often come across staff who are naturally apprehensive at this stage, wondering how it will go, whether any patients are going to complain, or if they will have to face questions they can’t answer. This is where I take the pressure off the team by staying in the practice for as long as they need me, so I can help with every aspect of the changeover.
Reception staff are busy enough and don’t need the hassle of any extra patient queries or form filling. We do this groundwork as an inclusive part of our offering and I believe this really sets us apart. I effectively become part of the practice team for as long as it takes and they can contact me at any time by phone or email. We also give each practice a dedicated customer services adviser at our head office, so they never feel they are on their own.
For me, my job is first and foremost about listening to practices to find out what they really need. As we provide a tailor-made solution to meet the requirements of each individual practice, I am on-hand to guide, advise and train, without ever trying to fit our clients into a ‘one size fits all’ scheme. My dental nurse friends are very jealous of my job, probably as I’m always telling everyone how much I love it! It is the best job I’ve ever had, but I know I am more competent thanks to my previous dental experience.
It gives me a far better understanding of what practices are going through and the issues they may be facing, so whether it’s plan-related or not, I can help point them in the right direction and happily, they really appreciate my support.
For more information on DPAS’ flexible, comprehensive and effective dental plans, call 01747 870910 or visit www.dpas.co.uk.
Louise Bone qualified as a dental nurse and later joined the NHS Education for Scotland decontamination team. She joined DPAS in 2013.