Finding funding loopholes

Patient-financing or treatment-financing schemes have been around for a while. As the retail industry continues to grow due to high consumer borrowings – especially during the last year – patient-financing schemes have become more popular among both dentists and patients.

This is evident each time I visit a dental practice, especially a private one and I hear about new treatment financing companies and administrators. At our test practice, The Neem Tree, patient financing has been a strong aid to selling further higher priced treatments.

Patient financing simply means that a third party will finance the private dental treatment sought by customers. With more dentists turning private and more patients opting for private dental treatment, there’s certainly a growing need to finance expensive private dental treatment.

Several companies have identified this need and now offer various financing schemes to assist patients with short-term finance to support cost of treatment. Nowadays, a treatment plan involving two implants, including the relevant crown work or a treatment plan that involves two molar root canals, six crowns, five fillings, tooth whitening, two veneers would amount to over £5,000. A patient with a treatment plan like this will find it hard to pay for the treatment in one go, so it is likely they will either postpone the required treatment until funds become available or seek NHS treatment.

However, with the treatment-financing option, the patient can opt for short or medium term finance. Often short-term financing will be interest free and the medium term will carry a small amount of interest. Nevertheless, patients who qualify for patient-financing will quite readily opt for the most suitable scheme to spread the cost over a longer period.

A patient who wishes to get private dental treatment will be more than happy to pay a small amount of interest and administration charges to have the required dental treatment, rather than waiting for the funds to be available in the future, which often doesn’t happen. From a patient’s point of view, this is an ideal way to have the required private dental treatment without putting pressure on short-term cash requirements.

From a practice’s point of view, this would mean more customers through the door and increased revenue. As in the case of any big purchase decision, a credit facility will definitely facilitate the buyer’s decision-making process. If you were the owner of the private dental practice who had not operated a treatment finance scheme, it is likely that you’ll lose the patient concerned and the potential revenue of £5,000. I strongly recommend patient financing as a must for practitioners who offer private dental care.

There are a few patient finance providers who offer financing for private dental treatment with varying terms and conditions and commission charges, so it is important to tie up with the right partner.

You will need to consider the commission percentages for different credit options, whether the provider can set up a seamless operation that will minimise the administration work for you and your staff, the cost to the patient in terms interest that they will incur and any other charges. The impact on the patient can not be ignored because if the scheme is not attractive in the eyes of the patient the entire effort is wasted. Therefore, it is critical to evaluate both financial and non-financial aspects when choosing the right partner for your practice.

On the other hand, implementation of a patient-financing scheme should be well supported by new internal systems and procedures. This is important because certain treatment plans could last for several months resulting in a need to monitor the total value of treatment carried out so far, at any given time, in comparison to the amount of credit approved and paid to you upfront by the finance provider.

This will ensure that patients on a financing scheme do not exceed the total value of treatment that they are entitled to. On the other hand, by systemising a patient-financing scheme, any charges involved such as commission charges levied by the provider could be properly allocated to the relevant dentist especially when associates are involved. Finally one important thing that should never be forgotten is to apply for a consumer credit license before the implementation of the scheme.

With more dentists turning private and growth in demand for both general and specialised private dentistry, patient-financing schemes will become more popular among dentists and patients. For the dentists, it will boost the revenue and profitability. For the patients, they will have access to the much needed short-term funding to undergo required private dental care and for the patient finance providers, increased income in the form of commissions.

It is not a bad idea to introduce a patient-financing scheme to your practice, if you haven’t got one. But it is also important to evaluate the available schemes and the providers, as to both financial and non-financial aspects, so that you select the best scheme/provider for you and your patients.

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