Why we introduced patient finance to help combat the perfect storm

patient financeMedenta’s Shelley Clegg speaks to John Derbyshire, partner of Only Orthodontics, about how and why the practice introduced patient finance during an incredibly difficult and turbulent period.

Can you tell us a bit about your practice, Only Orthodontics?

The practice was established in 1995 in Huddersfield. We built a substantial NHS contract – between 85-95% of our turnover through the NHS.

In March 2020, the NHS unexpectedly terminated the contract awarding it to another practice. Adding to an already difficult challenge, lockdown came into effect.

Like many other practices across the UK, lockdown forced us to close.

Had you ever considered going private before circumstances forced your hand?

Not really, we’ve always been a big NHS practice and it was working well for us and our patients.

While we did do a small amount of private work, the incentive wasn’t there for us to develop the private side of the business. The NHS contract provided a steady income.

Any private work we undertook was the icing on the cake of a well-performing NHS practice. We were very comfortable and perhaps a bit complacent.

What have the implications been for your business from losing the NHS contract?

The wind-down of our NHS contract, which would usually ease the exit from a financial perspective, is actually costing us money.

We’ve had to completely rethink our practice structure. Including organising the cost of treatment and how patients would fund that treatment.

How did you go about rethinking the practice structure?

We sought a lot of advice from marketing consultants and experienced people in the dental world to help create a plan for our future. Part of this was offering patient finance.

Medenta was recommended to us so we could create an appealing offering to prospective patients, and therefore bring more revenue in.

Having a range of payment options was critical at this point in time. Experience told us that if patients were spending £100 or less per month, resistance to treatment would be minimal.

Although we knew this monthly figure worked for our patients, as a business it wasn’t achievable without having the right vehicles for payment in place.

We were able to achieve cost-effective treatment prices which suited us and our patients with Medenta. The payment to us is upfront, which helps the practice’s cashflow. This was another critical element to seeing us through the transition.

The support in reducing the payment administration is also very helpful. We don’t have to scour through pages of payments every month to check everything is up to date.

Are you still seeing a lot of interest for your services even with moving to a private offering?

There’s a huge demand for a massively overlooked part of dentistry. People want honest and straightforward treatment that practices deliver in a sympathetic and efficient way.

You don’t have to be a dental influencer on social media to provide private treatment. You just need to be a caring, decent person and patients will be drawn to that.

What was it like introducing Medenta as a new process during lockdown?

Tough, as we had to arrange a completely new business strategy. Although lockdown did allow more time for team training.

Our treatment coordinators, who’ve been with us for more than 20 years and are excellent, deal with much of the Medenta process. They found the training good. Particularly when there’s someone at Medenta who’s always on hand to help.

I would recommend any practice who is working on an NHS contract to consider going private. It’s becoming less cost effective for the dentist to offer NHS treatment.

And if you are planning to go private, I certainly would recommend patient finance through Medenta. Particularly as a single-handed practitioner. It improves your cash flow and removes all administration surrounding patient payments.

There’s never a ‘wrong time’ to progress your business.

Shelley Clegg has been a business development manager at Medenta, a long-established provider of patient finance, for three years. She has 40 years’ experience in dentistry including more than 20 in practice where she held roles such as dental nurse and practice manager. Shelley was also the business manager for a group of 10 practices and a regional support manager at Practice Plan.

Medenta offers some of the lowest subsidy rates in the market and is one of the few providers of finance solutions to also offer a comprehensive support service, including an online patient application portal and an e-learning suite. For more information call: 01691 684175 or visit www.medenta.com.

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