Planning for success

business womanNigel Jones, sales director at Practice Plan, explains how a patient membership plan can contribute to a sustainable practice and a successful business plan.

Many owners of dental practices have found the last few years of economic turmoil to be challenging to say the least, as they have found it tough going to maintain income in the face of reductions, in both patient attendance and treatment uptake. For some, their survival strategy was to keep heads down and ride out the storm. However, others were more proactive and adopted a more business-like approach to the running of their dental practice, central to which was the development of a business plan.

When it comes to business planning, a focus on the key influences of the success of your practice, coming from the external environment and competitive pressures, is an excellent place to start. This exercise can be very revealing in terms of helping you identify the issues that could derail the achievement of your vision, but can also highlight the opportunities you have to potentially accelerate your progress towards that vision. It then follows that critical self-analysis of the strengths and weaknesses of the practice, when it comes to repelling the threats or capitalising on the opportunities, is required.

Of course, different practices are in different situations and will have different threats and opportunities to factor into their business plans. However, there are often common themes among the issues identified for which patient membership plans often can be part of the solution.

The need to build a regular income

Addressing cash-flow concerns has been an issue affecting many practices in the past few years, and although things seem to be on the up, continued economic success is not guaranteed.

Taking steps to insulate a practice from the vagaries of the economy is a feature in more and more dental business plans. Developing a membership plan within your practice can ensure that you are building the regular income that gives you and other interested parties, such as the bank, a high degree of comfort.

Further development, a preventive ethos

Although it’s not earth shattering news, there is much anecdotal evidence to support the contention that patients on a membership plan attend more regularly than those who pay when they turn up…if they turn up. More regular attendance for both dental health checks and hygiene appointments can only be good news for a patient’s oral health and so membership is often the best way of packaging a patient’s preventive care.

Improving patient loyalty

It’s an accepted business truth that, in most cases, it costs more to recruit new customers than to retain existing ones. Goodwill valuations often favour membership plan patient bases above fee-per-item bases because of the loyalty that comes with membership of a practice.

Reducing administration for your team

While you are guaranteeing a regular income for your practice and allowing your patients to maintain their oral care with regular attendance and special discounts, a membership plan can mean less administration for your team. When processing, the plan is taken care of by a plan provider, leaving your team to concentrate on more important things.

Be in control

Having the peace of mind that you are in control of your business can be the ultimate luxury. With a dental membership plan you can set out the terms of your business, what you want to offer and how you are going to offer it, as well as making sure it is what your patients are looking for.

Through your patient membership plan you can project how many patients you need and what hourly rate you need to charge, feeding into your business plan and giving the comfort that you are covering the basics. Allowing a dental plan provider to administer your membership plans takes away the administration hassle and, by choosing the right provider for you, you can access a whole range of expertise and support to help you continually run your business successfully.

So, yes, planning is key, and having a dental membership plan in place could help you build your business. Deciding which plan provider to use is vital to the success of your membership plan, and potentially, your practice. So, make sure you choose carefully and find one that matches your ethos and can deliver the support you need.

If you are a dentist, practice owner or manager who would like more information about patient membership plans, then call Practice Plan, on 01691 684120 or visit

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