Are you ready for a post COVID-19 change of plan?

change in plan following COVID-19With businesses in a fight for survival amidst COVID-19, Conrad Broadbent talks about how to address the realities of the current situation and find a new way forward.

What is your view of the current situation?

It is tough out there; businesses are fighting for survival and dentistry is likely to be very different when we return. Let’s put things into perspective here and it’s no use sugar coating it. Things aren’t automatically going to be just like they were before the COVID-19 lockdown. Practice income will reduce but overheads will remain.

The gravity of the current situation means every penny going forward is going to be vital to a practice’s continued existence. Although the government has offered a vast package to support business, the lack of demand will see many businesses fail, workers will lose jobs and incomes will decline.

The government’s OBR (Office for Budget Responsibility) is forecasting a 35% drop in GDP with two million job losses. The economy is falling off a cliff; this is potentially twice as bad as 2008.

I think it’s an understatement to say that the last few weeks have been uncertain. However, I continue to be amazed by the resilience of the profession and the drive to ensure the best outcome for their patients and the practice as a whole. It is time, however, for practices to examine all their overheads and reduce them if at all possible. Everything from practice consumables to accountancy services are up for grabs. I believe one of the biggest single overheads in practices will be dental plan administration fees. So now’s the time to take action and prepare for the future.

Ask yourself the question: ‘Am I happy paying over the odds for my dental plan administration?’

What do you think are the key messages for practices signing up with plan providers at the moment?

Practices need to take control of their own destiny and not be dictated to by any service provider. Any decision regarding plan fees, suspension of plan payments, introduction of a lower-cost plan etc must be the practice’s decision.

These are practice choices, which is how we at Patient Plan Direct have positioned all our advice. So the message to dentists is: ‘Your business, your patients, your income, your decision.’

If you decide you want to reduce your costs and move to a new plan provider, make sure you get your request to transfer actioned. Don’t be fobbed off with meaningless and trumped up verbal obstacles. And, if you can’t get the move you want and deserve (don’t forget they’re your patients and it’s your money), demand a full written explanation including any alleged regulatory or full legal reasons why your current provider won’t help you.

Patient Plan Direct and our lawyers are yet to see a bona fide reason why a plan provider can prevent you from moving to another plan provider.

In the current climate we’re very conscious that short-term deals may not be the long-term answer and that’s why Patient Plan Direct has permanently low fees, all year round.

‘As a practice owner, we have felt really well supported by all of the team at Patient Plan Direct during the current pandemic we are all living through. Communication and support has been forthcoming from head office as well as our business development manager. They have helped us to identify the key ways in which we can continue to support our patients, protect our plan patient base as well as assisting those in need of emergency care and advice. Having access to the patient portal  has been invaluable in allowing us to manage patient queries remotely. The overall goal is to be back in our dental home, doing what we do best looking after our patients and their dental health.’

Dr Shrik Kotecha, Glenn Dental

How are you managing to stay in contact with your clients?

Long before this crisis hit, we had Disaster Recovery and sophisticated business continuity systems and processes in place to communicate with our clients in many different ways. Actually the lockdown has given us the chance to see that everything we could possibly need is in place and functioning as planned. We were immediately able to use video platforms, make conference calls and implement working from home without a hitch.

So, as soon as this situation started to unravel, we were able to jump in to protect our clients and their patients, shining a light to point the way through the crisis and reducing panic. We know that hasn’t been the same for all plan providers. There is some frustration out there because practices have been unable to make prompt contact in what is already a stressful time. We have had many practices contacting us voicing their frustration that they had no contact from their current service provider.

On the other hand, we have been there from day one. For us, customer service is key. We’re not just a business – we’re also a support network where there are human beings at the other end of the phone, email or video calls to guide practices to make their own important decisions about patient care* and retention as well as additional support services and advice (*within government guidelines).

Why is having a patient plan so beneficial in these unprecedented times?

The obvious advantage of a plan is that it provides a practice with a predictable, recurring income. It funds any downtime and cashflow remains strong.

It also enables practices to continue to nurture patient loyalty, and for patients to budget for their annual care.

In addition, it supports preventive dentistry. If patients are paying regularly every month, they’re more likely to attend when the time is right once again. So, from a practice perspective, it means that patients keep fit and healthy whilst preventing any disease. And that’s the outcome that we want for patients.

Plus, with Patient Plan Direct, one of the benefits for both patients and practices is the access to our Global Dental Scheme. This can give peace of mind in the event of a dental emergency, or with any other unforeseen circumstances that may come along.

‘Sharon and all of the Patient Plan Direct support team have been extremely helpful given the unprecedented time we all find ourselves in. No question has been too small to help and support myself and the practice. Thank you Sharon and all of the support team at Patient Plan Direct. You have made a difficult situation more bearable just by having a friendly voice to speak to.’

Queens Road Practice

What advice can you offer to practices without a plan that are looking to the future and considering signing up with a provider, and to anyone thinking about a switch?

Because a lot of decision makers are not doing their usual everyday clinical work, they now find themselves with some thinking and planning time. Now is the time to examine things like overheads and plan admin fees. Our systems, processes and people are all interconnected and have been from before the start of the COVID-19 issue. Our clients have experienced no delays with collections, payments or points of contact, or responses to practice support requests.

If you’re looking to implement a plan for the first time, do your homework. Speak to a number of providers and their customers. Understand the percentage of your fees you are being charged by your new plan provider against the services you wish to access. Only pay for what is really important to you.

Your plan should always feel like your plan. It should offer full professional and dedicated support teams helping you maximise your practice’s income. Also, make sure you understand your contract. Don’t commit to unrealistic long-term contracts. Make sure you fully understand that the plan belongs to you and you can move your patients when you want using the method of transfer you prefer. This is extremely important as many plan providers hold practices in agreements they find extremely difficult to get out of!

If any of that does not ring true for you, I’d suggest it is time to look at your options.

How does the switch process work?

Our switch process is swift and efficient. We support practices every step of the way so that it is not at all onerous.

Also, the Bulk Change Process is on the horizon. This is designed to transfer multiple payers’ direct debits from one service provider to another.

This process facilitates the banks’ automated electronic transfer of all your patients’ existing direct debit instructions from your existing plan provider to Patient Plan Direct.

We have the systems in place to manage the whole process seamlessly on your behalf. All without the need for your patients to sign new direct debit instructions. So there is no risk of losing patients that way.

If you want to save what might equate to thousands of pounds, now is the time to speak to Patient Plan Direct. Then to ask your current provider for a transfer using the PAY.UK and Bacs-approved Bulk Change Scheme specifically.

We are here to help you. So, in the first instance please email [email protected] or i[email protected]  quoting ‘BCP’ to register your interest. We can guide you through the steps to see you permanently reduce your plan administration fees.

You’ve everything to gain and nothing to lose…other than excessive plan administration fees!

‘Christine has been great at reaching out to offer support at this time. It’s been a worrying few weeks for any dental business but having the support from Patient Plan Direct, working hard to save our plan base in the background has been so reassuring.’

Ollie and Darsh