Do you want to increase your turnover and improve your cash flow? Think finance says Brian Carter, director of Dental Finance
There can be no doubt that there is huge demand for orthodontic treatment from people wishing to improve their smile, with particular interest in the range of ‘invisible’ tooth straightening options now available in the marketplace. There seems to be no restriction on the age range of people looking to benefit, from parents seeking treatments for their children right through to people approaching or past retirement age who wish to benefit from an improved smile – something they may previously only have dreamed of.
However, we know from experience that many people do not proceed with treatments and very often the reason for not doing so will be the cost and their inability to afford it over a short period of time.
As with any other consumer purchase, affordability will be of key importance and marketing the availability of finance can play a large part in attracting new patients, as well in persuading existing ones to say ‘yes’. Many adult patients considering orthodontic treatment will already have made enquiries with regards to the treatment itself and will have been persuaded by the benefits of having an improved smile. So why do many not go ahead?
Very often people will be dissuaded by a significant financial outlay over a short period of time and will have difficulties in justifying this, either to themselves or their partners. However, they are far more likely to make a decision to proceed if they have an option that will cost them from around £70 a month, which will normally fit comfortably within their budget, rather than having to find £3,500 in one go.
Improving cash flow
One of the significant benefits in providing finance options is that the practice is paid at commencement of the treatment. Not only that but the lender accepts the credit risk and any problems relating to non-payment as a result of redundancy, sickness etc. will be between the patient and the lender and will not impact upon the practice. Some practices not offering finance already realise the problems patients will have in paying in one amount and enter into informal arrangements for them to pay as treatment progresses. However, this is not advantageous from a cash flow perspective and there is always the risk of payment difficulties once treatment is underway, with difficult decisions then being needed if the patient is unable to pay.
The take-up of treatment plans will vary significantly from one practice to another. However, from our experience of working with orthodontic practices, on average treatment plan take-up of around 40% increases to 60% once finance is offered. On this basis, if your practice were to receive five enquiries per week, the treatment plan take-up could increase by one case per week, which, at an average of £3,500 per treatment, could increase your turnover by in excess of £175,000 per year – what difference could that make to your practice in terms of profitability and cash flow?
Some practices achieve considerably more than this on finance – we work with orthodontic practices who arrange treatment in excess of £35,000 on finance every month, more than £400,000 per year. It makes a tremendous difference to their overall figures.
Offering finance effectively
There are a small number of finance providers working within the dental sector who can advise you on the most effective way to offer a finance package within your practice. Ideally, you need a scheme that offers flexibility of options to enable the patient to spread the cost in line with their budget – when you have that in place you remove one of the major hurdles to any sizeable treatment proceeding, to the advantage of both your patient and your practice.
To offer finance you currently need to obtain a Consumer Credit Licence from the Office of Fair Trading (OFT). With effect from 1st April 2014 the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) will replace the OFT and there will be some changes. Finance providers will be able to explain the up-to-date position when you make an enquiry.
Following a career in banking and finance with management roles in Barclays and First National Bank, Brian has been a director of Dental Finance for ten years. The company is now the largest independent provider of finance plans in the dental marketplace.