Thinking of switching dental plan providers? Finding the best deal can feel a little like booking a budget flight: the true cost of services is not always ‘as advertised’. Louise Beddow explains.

Hands up how many of you bit the bullet when it came to paying for holiday flights online, resignedly coughing up for those hidden extras you never anticipated? Unexpected fees soon mount up and there may be further costs at the check-in desk, which means certain ‘no-frills’ airlines can leave us feeling a little cheated.

Supermarkets and insurance, mobile phone, and energy companies are all guilty of stinging us with a final hiked price tag. So, in a world plagued by hidden extras, how best to ensure you understand the real cost to your pocket when it comes to the business of dentistry?

Transparency

The General Dental Council is crystal clear about its expectation upon you to communicate information to patients appropriately and honestly – and rightly so. Indeed, the need for a discussion of possible outcomes, risks and costs is written into the regulator’s Standards for the dental team (General Dental Council, 2013).

This open and transparent approach to care instils patient trust and loyalty – and any affordable dental plan should do the same. It should not only reflect your ethos, it should also provide you with a sound and solid long-term investment with no ‘extra’ cost surprises.

If an existing arrangement is failing to meet these expectations, then there are a few key questions you should ask an alternative provider before you make the switch.

1. How many successful dental plan switches have you made since you started?

The more successful switches the provider has under its belt, the more experience they can offer a practice. A good business development manager should take the time to get to know a practice, explain all stages of a transfer and ensure the team is prepared and confident.

2. Do you offer a completely automated transfer process – from start to finish?

The transfer process should be seamless – any provider should complete the initial data cleansing process, help create clear mailing letters, as well as provide in-practice support once the mailing goes live. A provider’s systems should ensure patients can easily transfer online or by post. A practice should receive informed guidance.

3. Are there any annual hidden costs in addition to the administration charge?

A very simple charging structure is essential to help you make a sound business decision to benefit patients and profits. The practice should pay a monthly administration charge and that’s it! There should be no surprises. It is important to explore all of the costs associated with ‘extra’ services. Make sure you get the full picture.

4. Will I have a dedicated field consultant and direct access to a dedicated customer service administrator?

This is absolutely vital for the practice – not only at the point of transfer, but also for the duration of the relationship. The aim should be that a provider becomes ‘an extra member of the practice team’.

5. Do you chase unpaid fees and offer annual fee reviews?

A provider should prompt practices to look at their ‘unpaid’ patients on a monthly basis. Our systems are designed to help a busy practice manager see unpaid patients at the click of a button, supported by a head office team who take the strain of following these up. A provider should have enough people out in the field to help with queries and make certain the plan (and all its components) run smoothly.

6. What else do you offer above and beyond plan administration?

A provider should always tick the following boxes – professionalism, flexibility trustworthiness, experience, and, key here, openness.

The dental industry is a people industry and if ‘open and honest communication’ lies at the heart of your delivery of dentistry, then you are entitled to expect this from any dental plan provision.

Reference

General Dental Council (2013) Standards for the dental team


DPAS is a specialist provider of practice-branded dental plans for your practice and patients, offering everything the team needs to implement and promote plans effectively. For further information, visit www.dpas.co.uk, email [email protected] or call 01747 870 910.