Review and re-energise
Reviewing and refreshing your dental plan regularly will make sure your practice continues to maintain the early enthusiasm and impetus for many years. Anne-Marie Lloyd-Jones is customer relations manager at DPAS Dental Plans and explains how practices can make sure their plan remains effective long after its launch
A well-constructed dental plan should be tailored to meet the needs of the individual practice and take into account the individual characteristics of their patients. However, as the needs of patients evolve, the services provided by a practice often change too and it’s important that your dental plan reflects this changing landscape and continues to deliver real benefits that have a tangible value for patients.
Sometimes, if a plan has been in place for a number of years it can lose its focus and relevance. In these cases the plan needs to be reviewed, refreshed and the team behind it re-energised. I recommend that plans be reviewed automatically every two years to take account of the changing needs of the practice and its patients. That’s not to say the plan is automatically changed or altered in any way, but simply the process of conducting a review can concentrate the minds of the team, refocus their attention on the benefits of the plan and ensure that the plan remains fit for purpose.
The right plan?
The first stage in this review process is to ask the basic question, ‘Do I have the right plan?’ Part of this consideration is whether your plan still provides the most suitable cover and that it is priced correctly, providing good value for patients and representing a cheaper option than a fee-per-item model. To tweak the plan slightly and adjust the prices is a relatively simple task, but in some cases, particularly if a plan has been established for many years, it is sometimes easier to create a new plan and pricing structure and develop a relaunch campaign.
Once the plan has been agreed, it is often the case that the plan’s benefits need to be re-stated. From a patient’s point of view there are the obvious benefits of receiving a slight discount on fee-per-item prices and being able to budget for oral care in manageable monthly amounts is a clear advantage for some. But don’t forget to reiterate the benefits of regular attendance for oral hygiene appointments. A dental plan offers patients a means of safeguarding general oral health and gives them peace of mind and confidence, helping to maintain a good level of preventive care, which reduces the need for extensive, often costly treatment that can result from neglect. Communicating these messages in a clear, concise manner reinforces the positive aspects of the plan to patients and the team.
To relaunch your plan with the maximum success means ensuring your own marketing and promotion of the plan has a co-ordinated message. Segmenting your patient data and targeting different groups with slightly different messages that resonate with them is a highly effective strategy, as is ensuring those patients already registered with the plan are kept informed and up to date with changes.
Re-engaging the whole team with the revitalised plan is very important, as without this ‘buy-in’ it is often very difficult to make progress. It is always valuable for the dentist and manager to take part in training, as their role is very influential. My team have led many such training sessions and always encourage the practice team to collectively decide which messages will resonate best with their patients and then encourage them to focus on these throughout all their communication; be that by way of e-shots, letters, mailings or face to face.
Understanding the process of how the plan is introduced to patients is another vital element. Ensuring a smooth flow of information and envisaging a ‘journey’ whereby each member of the team understands their individual role and how this plays a part in promoting the plan is an important factor in ensuring there is no misunderstanding as to the individuals’ responsibilities and helping to clearly establish who should talk about the plan and when.
The introduction of the plan to patients cannot be left to chance and this role needs to be taken by a team member who is confident and has belief in the benefits of the plan. But the whole team needs to understand the flow of information and the role each of them play and how they integrate with other members of the team.
Finally when all the above has been achieved it will be time to promote the re-launch of your plan. This usually demands a variety of communications that emphasise the benefits of the plan, all of which should be collated into a campaign comprising a blend of e-shots, mailings, social media, websites and face-to-face communication, all designed to build awareness of the plan and encourage enquiry and uptake.
A practice can expend a lot of time and energy on rejuvenating their dental plan and it’s important that you set expectations from the beginning. The fact is that the more patients you enrol on your dental plan, the more cost-effective the plan becomes, particularly as DPAS administered plans contain a flat monthly fee as part of their changes, so it’s extremely important that plans are kept front of mind and remain a focus for the team at all times.
From a business point of view a dental plan should form part of your overall financial and marketing strategy. As a tool to attract new patients and build loyalty the benefits of dental plans are clear. But plans also play an important role in maintaining consistent revenue streams and managing cash flow so taking the time to make sure your plan is working hard and remains effective and relevant is always worthwhile.
Anne-Marie Lloyd-Jones is customer relations manager at DPAS Dental Plans. She joined the company in 2007 following previous roles in banking, finance, education and administrative training. Anne-Marie heads up the Sales Support team, collectively looking after the needs of DPAS clients from the implementation of their plans to ongoing in-practice support.