With an increasing focus on behavioural economics and decision-making amongst the public we have seen a rise in price comparison sites within dentistry. Consequently, the impact of offering finance options within the practice has become a gateway to patient retention and attraction, helping patients afford the treatment they want whilst effectively increasing practice profitability.
Over recent years I have seen a dramatic shift in not only how patients consider dental treatment, but also the need for finance support. My first practice successfully grew from a small one-surgery practice into a large five-surgery set up, predominately NHS (75%) with a healthy patient list of over 25,000, but the demand to offer treatment finance just wasn’t there at that time.
Since selling that practice around four years ago, the industry has experienced a revolution in the demand for patient finance. When I established my current practice, the Bellissima Clinic, in 2014, being able to offer patient finance soon became a matter of urgency. As a solely private practice, not only were we going to be offering high-end treatments that could set patients back several thousand pounds, but patients were actually requesting financial options to ensure those treatments could be done.
After undertaking some research of our own we decided to opt for an ‘established and knowledgeable’ leading dental patient finance provider. However, as we saw the change in financial regulations with control handed over from the OFT to the FCA (Financial Conduct Authority), it soon became apparent that they weren’t clued up on the information needed to keep dental practices on the right side of compliance and the law.
For those who don’t know, to offer finance to patients, you used to need a Consumer Credit Licence (CCL). When the FCA took over responsibility to continue you had to convert your CCL into an Interim Permission, and before March 2016 you’ll have to complete the arduous online application to be directly authorised. Many are unaware that all practices that offer any kind of credit or deferred payment scheme are governed by the Consumer Credit Act and must be authorised by the FCA. These rules apply to all businesses and individuals offering any form of consumer credit, even if treatment is on-going.
With every cloud there is a silver lining and whilst undergoing problems with our existing finance provider, we received a phone call from another finance provider offering their services. It turned out they were fully in tune with the recent changes in regulation providing affordable, licence-free dental treatment payment options – it was meant to be!
Authorised by the FCA, working with Chrysalis Finance has been a breath of fresh air, their complete professionalism and knowledge of financial regulations is incomparable. It was apparent from the start that they knew what they were doing, and more importantly, they knew what we, as a practice, needed to do to keep on the right side of the law.
Partnering with Chrysalis means practices needn’t undertake the laborious task of being authorised by the FCA directly, as they take full responsibility for all compliance risks and regulations – so that we, as professionals, can concentrate on dentistry.
At the time of converting to Chrysalis, the clinic was already going through the motions of being authorised with the FCA direct, so we were unable to benefit from this service. Nevertheless, Chrysalis played a pivotal role in helping us through the arduous form-filling process, ensuring we were authorised by the FCA seamlessly and efficiently. A job we couldn’t have done without them.
The changeover from our previous provider to Chrysalis was seamless; it was quick, easy and caused minimal disruption to the practice. The same can be said for patients when applying for credit. They follow a quick and simple ‘123’ application process, we then receive full payment of the treatment within 48 hours of the patient being approved, helping maintain our cashflow, and the patient continues to pay for treatment according to their agreed plan.
Increasing treatment uptake
As the dentistry business becomes more competitive the need to convince patients of the quality and affordability of treatment becomes paramount, as does the transparency of pricing and options. We are now able to offer patients competitively priced treatment plans supported by interest-free credit so that they can spread the cost of treatment over an affordable amount of time.
In my opinion, everyone wins. We win because we can carry out treatments that the patient actually wants or requires, thus treatment uptake of high-end procedures is enhanced leading to higher practice turnover. The patient wins because they reap the rewards of an affordable finance package according to their terms and with no credit card charges. Plus treatment is more accessible to them now, gone are the days of having to save up for treatment.
Starting a private practice from scratch at the end of the recession sounded like a recipe for disaster. Patients were, and still are, more discerning towards treatment and as a practice there is a need to constantly review protocols and see how to improve your offering. Finance is one way to do this as it enables practices to offer a bespoke solution to patients, and it’s not just the bottom line of what rate you can offer patients, it’s the ease that you can offer it to them.
Stick to what you know best
As a professional in my field, I like to think I’m good at what I do but I can’t be good at everything. So we, as a profession, should turn to someone who knows what they’re doing in their field and take the unnecessary hassles away from us. I’m a great believer in leaving the experts to do their bit while I do my bit and concentrate on dentistry. So if you need expert help and guidance in patient finance you should turn to the experts.
Dr Vernon Elliott qualified from Liverpool University in 1988. In the early 90s, he developed a particular interest in the ever exciting and changing field of facial aesthetics and anti-ageing treatments. He is a certified trainer/advisor to fellow clinicians and a keynote speaker in the field of facial aesthetics; he is also an examiner for the NEBDN diploma and postgraduate sedation qualifications.