Louise Bone, practice consultant at DPAS Dental Plans, shares her tips on how to grow the number of patients you have on your membership plan.
The win-win benefits of a dental membership plan are well established; a regular and reliable income source for the practice and an easier, more cost-effective way of paying for oral healthcare for the patient. For both parties, the advantages are clear, yet some practices still seem to struggle to sign patients up to their plan.
However, with a little organisation you can significantly boost your plan numbers. The first thing to get right when selling a membership plan is the plan itself. Does it stack up as an attractive offer to the patient? Are there enough reasons for the patient to make the move from a fee per item approach to the plan?
Believe in your plan
The collective benefits of joining the plan should make it a very easy decision for the patient. The three key benefits of a plan for the patient are:
- The ability to spread the cost of their regular dental care and save a little against the cost of paying as they go
- Supplementary dental injury and emergency insurance to cover the patient in the event of an emergency, giving the patient peace of mind
- Exclusive savings on additional treatments.
The combination of these three benefits makes a very strong case for the patient to join your plan. However, this will only come across if everyone in the practice believes that a plan is the right thing for the patient.
If you and your team don’t believe it is the right thing for the patient, then don’t expect the patient to believe it either. Everyone has to firmly believe that the plan provides the patient with the best outcomes all round; financial, convenience and most importantly, the best way of achieving excellent oral health. Research shows this to be the case. Patients on a membership plan feel more connected to the practice and as such are more likely to commit to, and show up for their regular appointments than ‘pay-as-you-go’ patients.
So, if you believe that the plan is in the best interest of your patients, why not make it your default position for any new patients coming into the practice. When you have a new patient enquiry, don’t offer a choice in the first instance; explain to the patient that the way the practice operates is through a patient membership scheme and back that up with the reasons you operate in this way, ie, because it’s the best way of ensuring the patient gets the most comprehensive and regular dental treatment they require.
Know your plan
If presented clearly and confidently, most patients will accept the position and sign up to your plan.
Of course, to be able to present the plan clearly and confidently means that every member of your team needs to be well-versed in the key benefits as well as the signing up process.
Whatever you do, don’t try to blag the conversation with the patient. Make sure every team member knows how the plan works, what the costs are, what the benefits are and how they should be communicated.
If necessary, practise selling the plan to each other. The more ingrained the details of the plan become, the easier it is to have a natural conversation that doesn’t sound like a scripted sales pitch.
All of the above will work well for new patients coming into the practice. But how do you convert existing patients onto your plan? Well, that’s down to the dentist!
Patients respect the dentist’s knowledge, experience and advice. That’s why joining the plan should be ‘prescribed’ by the dentist. The conversation is very simple and quick and won’t impact on time in the surgery. It goes like this:
‘Mrs Smith, I notice you’re not on our patient membership plan – it’s something that I would strongly advise that you do. There are many benefits, but most importantly, it encourages you to attend regularly so we can ensure we maintain the oral health levels that you want. Please have a chat with the team on reception and they can let you have all the details, and even get you signed up today, if that’s what you’d like to do.’
It’s that simple! Yet for some reason, most dentists shy away from having this conversation and, as a result, miss the opportunity of building plan numbers and increasing patient loyalty to the practice.
So, in summary, building your plan numbers is not difficult or complicated. It just requires belief in the plan, an in-built knowledge of the plan benefits for the patient and a willingness to engage in a simple conversation.
To discuss how DPAS can help you grow your membership plan visit www.dpas.co.uk or call 01747 870 910.