The importance of a robust patient plan
Josie Hutchings talks to practice manager Kate Cummings about the benefits a well-populated plan brings to their business and their patients.
Financial stability for your business and being able to deliver care to patients are two things that lots of dental teams will have worried about over the past year.
However, many practices with a robust membership plan in place have told us their big fears about these issues turned out to be unfounded. The plan protected them from suffering financially while closed. And it enabled patients to easily access care once they reopened.
To find out more about how their plan works for them, both during a pandemic and in less extraordinary times, I spoke to Kate Cummings from Hanford Dental and Implant Centre.
How beneficial was it to have a plan during the pandemic?
Kate Cummings: The level of stress in March/April 2020 was phenomenal. I remember saying to my husband, who’s also our principal dentist: ‘What if everyone cancels their plan?’. It made me realise how much of a massive sustenance that money is to the practice. Especially when you’re not generating income over the counter and we weren’t sure what we’d receive from the NHS, as we only have a very small contract with them.
Every day for eight weeks, I logged onto Practice Plan’s Online Services to check if we had any leavers. But the only people who left the plan were those who had sadly died, and two people who temporarily suspended their membership.
At a time when most people were sitting at home checking their outgoings and thinking about what they might need to cancel, the vast majority of patients chose to stick with us and keep paying for their plan.
We realised just how much patients must like the practice and being on the plan; having their regular check-ups and hygiene appointments has become ingrained in them.
Having the membership plan money coming in genuinely kept us afloat. We didn’t have to take out a loan and we could still pay the bills. So it was incredibly reassuring.
How important is it to have a robust plan in ‘normal’ times, which hopefully we’ll soon head back to?
Kate Cummings: It’s hugely important because it brings big benefits to your patients and their oral health. But also to you as a business.
Patients on a plan attend regularly and take their oral health seriously. As a dentist, you know you have a core group of people that you see at least twice a year. So every time you have an appointment you’re not starting from scratch.
You know they’ve listened to what you’ve said. You can monitor them for oral cancer and you can work together to maintain oral health and prevent disease. That’s fantastic because dentistry shouldn’t just be about treating disease.
From the business point of view, it brings a balance of money and planning. Having patients on a plan gives you a stability of income that allows you to plan ahead more and know what to expect, which makes running the business a lot smoother.
What’s your approach to discussing the plan with patients and growing membership?
Kate Cummings: We talk about the plan whenever we have an enquiry from a new patient. Sometimes emailing them a link to sign up to the membership before they’ve even come into the practice.
Some people start on a pay-as-you-go basis. But we always make sure that both the clinician they’re seeing and the front desk team will talk to them about the plan and explain the benefits.
We also actively try to grow membership through a variety of marketing methods. For example, we still do leaflet dropping because our demographic has a high number of people aged 70 and over. But we also do a lot on social media and local advertising.
We’re also involved with the local community. We visit the local school and hospice, because we want to be embedded in the area we work. We want people to think of us as part of the fabric of the community. Not just the dental practice.
If you want to explore the possibility of a life in private dentistry and you want to listen to Jayne or one of the other Practice Plan RSMs, you can attend the Experts Guide to the move from NHS to private virtual show, that takes place on 2 July. To sign up to one of the free webinars go to NHS to Private Dentistry Show – Dentistry.co.uk.