Want some creative ways to boost revenue for your dental practice? What if you could do that and offer better dental benefits to uninsured patients at the same time? If that sounds like a win-win, we agree! And a dental membership plan might be the solution you need.
In this article, we will walk you through the process of creating profitable dental membership plans and show you how to market and retain members effectively. Ready? Then let’s dive right in!
Understanding Dental Membership Plans
Dental membership plans are alternatives to traditional dental insurance offered directly by the dental practice rather than a third-party insurance company. They allow uninsured patients to access dental care more affordably than using dental insurance. And they let you deal directly with your patients, avoiding an insurance middleman.
The high cost of dental coverage through dental insurance plans keeps many of your patients from visiting your office as often as they should. Dental membership plans can help make dental care more affordable for them by offering free preventive services and discounts on other procedures.
At the same time, since membership plans are set up as a subscription model, they guarantee consistent recurring revenue for your practice and often increase revenue overall.
Now, let’s take a closer look at the benefits of dental membership plans for practices like yours.
What Is A Dental Membership Plan?
Think of dental membership plans as self-administered insurance plans. Patients pay a monthly or annual fee to your dental office. In exchange, they get access to perks, like free cleanings and preventive care, plus a discount from your standard fee schedule on other procedures.
Instead of relying on a dental insurance company, you guarantee their benefits so they don’t need to wait for approval to start treatment. And they pay right away, eliminating a complex reimbursement process for your team.
The reimbursement rates a dentist receives from dental insurance companies have consistently declined over the past 15 years, while the fees for most procedures have increased (Source: American Dental Association). By cutting out the costly insurance middleman, you can offer better prices to your patients and keep more revenue for yourself.
Patients tend to love these plans because they become “members” and receive exclusive discounts and benefits. It also means no deductibles, treatment waiting periods, or hours-long phone holds with a distant customer service agent.
Benefits of Membership Plans for A Dental Office
Creating a dental membership plan can bring a lot of benefits to your practice, some of them obvious and some of them less so. Here are some critical benefits for dental offices like yours:
Increased Patient Loyalty
Your dental patients love feeling like they’re part of an exclusive program. You can print up membership cards and send host member-only events that make them feel a part of something special. But, more importantly, previously uninsured patients sincerely appreciate getting access to dental benefits for an affordable price.
The sense of appreciation builds an intimate connection between the dentist and their patients, increasing patient loyalty and decreasing patient turnover. Even insured patients may choose to stop paying their insurance company and start dealing with you directly.
Predictable Cash Flow
Dentists are often susceptible to month-to-month revenue swings driven by lead generation, seasonal shifts, vacation schedules, and unpredictable economic factors. Adding monthly or annual patient payments to your business model through a dental membership plan creates a predictable recurring revenue stream. You’ll also be less dependent on unpredictable reimbursement schedules from dental insurance providers.
Membership plans increase dental practice’s income in several different ways:
- You’ll collect membership fees from some patients who didn’t visit regularly because they didn’t have insurance.
- You’ll pay less to insurance companies for each procedure and keep more for yourself. Members are more likely to come in for biannual (free) checkups/cleanings, where you’ll identify new dental work needed.
- Members are more likely to follow through on getting the necessary procedures, leading to an additional boost to your bottom line.
Reduced Administrative Burden
Has your billing team ever had trouble with an insurance reimbursement? Of course, they have! A dental membership plan eliminates all the complex claim submission process, saving your team a ton of time, not to mention headaches. Your patients will pay you a monthly fee and then pay a discounted price for services. So you spend less time on paperwork and more time caring for patients.
Increased Accessibility Of Care
Introducing dental membership plans can help your practice serve uninsured patients better than ever. By expanding your services to this underserved demographic, you’re opening the doors to growth. Additionally, membership plans often make it easier for patients to get much-needed dental work without a long waiting period or pre-approval.
Steps To Develop An Attractive Dental Membership Plan
We’ve already established why developing a dental membership plan can benefit your dental practices and patients. Now let’s take a look at what you should consider when designing a membership that brings all the benefits you’ve wanted.
Part I: Assess Your Needs
Identify Your Target Audience — Understanding who you want to serve with your dental membership plans will help you build programs that meet their needs and preferences.
- Who are the patients that you serve currently? Are you catering to families, seniors, or patients with specific needs?
- Consider demographics, oral health needs, insurance status, and other factors influencing patients’ interest in a membership plan.
- Will you be targeting your best patients with the membership plans? Or appealing to a new segment of uninsured patients in your community?
Research the Needs of Your Practice and Patients — Identify your practice’s current strengths, challenges, and growth opportunities.
- Survey your office team and patients to understand what they like about their insurance, what they don’t like, and what would push them to consider an alternative.
- What are your financial and operational goals for your dental membership plans? What metrics will you be watching to judge its success?
Part II: Craft Your Membership Plans
Create Your Membership Tiers — Design a variety of membership tiers appealing to a wide range of patient needs and budgets.
- Consider creating plans like Basic, Family, and Senior packages, each with distinct services and benefits.
- Keep your options focused, though, limiting yourself to at most five options to avoid confusing patients or creating decision overload.
- Each tier should include variations in the number of cleanings, dental discount plans, emergency care availability, and other exclusive offerings.
Develop A Pricing Strategy — Pricing is a critical aspect of your dental membership plans and requires a strategic approach that offers value for both you and your patients.
- Be sure to offer a lower-cost basic plan focused on essential preventative care as a viable option for uninsured patients or younger individuals who may not need other treatments.
- Families may seek packages offering bundled services to simplify access for multiple members. They want to save money, too but may be willing to pay more in exchange for convenience.
- Offer specialized plans for seniors with more services to ensure comprehensive care, with correspondingly higher prices.
- Consider offering both monthly and annual payment options, with a small incentive for patients who are willing to pay the full year upfront.
Example Dental Membership Plans
What does a dental membership plan look like? We’ve included a few sample plans here to spark your imagination.
Of course, these are just simple examples. Be sure to compare these against your current fee structure and consult with your financial team before implementing a major program like this.
Example 1: Basic Preventive Care Plan
Price: $25/month or $275/year
- Two dental cleanings per year
- Annual dental exams and X-rays
- 10% discount on additional treatments
- Priority scheduling
Target Audience: Not currently insured patients or young people with good oral health. Patients who want access to regular preventative care in order to avoid developing significant issues that require major intervention.
Example 2: Family Comprehensive Care Plan
Price: $75/month per family (up to 4 members) or $800/year
- Two dental cleanings per family member per year
- Annual dental exams and X-rays for each family member
- 15% discount on additional treatments, including orthodontics
- Emergency dental care consultations
- Exclusive family appointment scheduling
Target Audience: Families looking for a package that offers convenience and cost savings on a range of dental services.
Example 3: Senior Special Care Plan
Price: $40/month or $430/year
- Three dental cleanings per year
- Bi-annual dental exams and X-rays
- 20% discount on restorative treatments such as crowns, bridges, and dentures
- Access to specialized senior dental care services
- Flexible appointment scheduling
Target Audience: Seniors who may need more frequent and specialized dental care, emphasizing making restorative treatments affordable.
Marketing Your Dental Membership Plan
Choose The Best Marketing Channels
Finding the best channels for pushing your message to your target audience is crucial to ensuring immediate and long-term success for your dental membership plans.
Consider a mix of online, offline, and in-office strategies to reach all the segments of patients you identified in your planning stage.
Here are some ideas for getting the word out there:
- Start In The Office — The prime candidates for your dental membership plans will be your existing patients. And there’s no better chance to get them signed up than when they’re in your office. Create attention-grabbing posters and brochures to put in the office and raise the curiosity of your patients.
Create sales scripts focusing on patient benefits and have your team review them with patients at every visit. And, if you can’t sign them up during their visit, make sure they take a brochure home to think about it.
- Follow Them Home — Your target patients may not visit your office frequently (especially the uninsured patients), so you can’t wait for them to show up to let them know about this great opportunity!
Instead, use email marketing or text messages to spread the word. Send an enthusiastic email informing them about this game-changing opportunity for uninsured patients to access affordable care. Link to a webpage with more details, or ask them to call you.
You can also send a direct mail campaign to your existing patients or the local community. Be sure to include a catchy headline and graphic and ask them to reach out for more info.
- Share It On Social — Leverage your dental practice’s social media platforms to highlight your membership plans’ benefits and features. Regular updates, special offers, and interactive posts can boost interest and sharing.
- Add It To Your Website — Create a page detailing each dental membership plan, including the costs, benefits, and bonuses. You can use the format we showed in the examples above. Create a QR code that links to the page and include it on all posters, brochures, and direct mail pieces. This page will serve as the primary resource for patients seeking more info on your program, so make sure you make it sound like a winning option for them!
- Be Creative — It may be harder to attract new patients with your dental membership plans because many people aren’t familiar with them. So you need to attract them with catchy messaging. Imagine a billboard with the phrase, “No Insurance? No Problem!” Might that catch the attention of uninsured dental patients? Once you have their attention, you can explain how it works.
- Leverage Your Fans — Encourage your happy patients to give you glowing testimonials, share their experiences in online reviews, and tell all their friends about you. Your patients’ words will do much more to build your credibility than tooting your own horn. If they’re happy, they’ll generally love to support you…But you have to ASK first!
Retaining Members In Your Dental Plan
When you launch your dental membership plans, you’re sure to see an immediate bump in your month-to-month revenue. But signing up new members is just the first step.
Your big challenge is to keep them engaged and retain their business for the long term. So let’s look at some effective member retention strategies to keep your supporters on board:
Provide Exceptional Customer Service
Membership plans work best when patients genuinely feel like they’re part of an exclusive community. When it comes to customer service, being polite and friendly is not enough. You need to try to create a personalized experience for each member.
Take the time to get to know your members on an individual level. Remember their names, ask about their families, and show genuine interest in their lives. By building solid relationships with your members, you foster a sense of trust and loyalty.
Encourage Feedback & Engagement
Your members will determine the success of your dental membership plan, so listen to them! Create regular channels for collecting feedback, like surveys, suggestion boxes, and asking direct questions at their appointments.
When you get negative feedback, don’t get defensive. Listen with empathy and take it as an honest opportunity to improve and adapt. Fixing issues with your program shows your patients you care and take their feedback seriously.
Celebrate positive feedback by sharing testimonials and highlighting success stories to motivate the dental team and attract potential members. And be sure to incorporate the winning ideas into your marketing materials and sales pitches.
Evaluate & Update Your Plans
Nothing stays effective forever in our fast-paced world. So stay attuned to changing patient needs and what your competitors may offer to steal patients away from you.
Plan to periodically review your plan offerings to ensure they offer competitive pricing, services, and benefits. Add new services, discounts, or tiers based on feedback and demand. And make sure that the plans remain financially viable for the practice, too. The plans need to work for both you and your patients if they will be successful long term.
Challenges & Pitfalls Of Dental Membership Plans
Of course, it’s easy to talk about implementing a dental membership plan, but doing it is much more complicated. It’s a complex process that requires legal scrutiny, continual monitoring, and strategies for maintaining high standards of care and administration.
We’ve talked a lot about the benefits of dental membership plans, so now let’s take a look at some of the things to look out for:
Understanding Regulatory Compliance
Dental membership plans, or dental discount plans, are not the same as insurance. However, they are subject to various federal and state regulations that govern healthcare and business practices. You’ll need to comply with a range of consumer protection laws, contractual obligations, financial reporting, and more.
We’re not lawyers, but you’ll want one before launching your dental membership plan. We’d recommend seeking a legal consultation to ensure your membership plans meet all regulatory standards. Ideally, you’ll have an attorney of reference who regularly monitors changes to state laws and regulations and can notify you of any changes that impact your business.
Managing Patient Expectations
Your patients must be fully aware of what is and is not included in each membership plan. For example, suppose your patient expects a 10% discount on all dental services. In that case, they’ll be angry if they find out that emergency services aren’t included. And is that same-day root canal an emergency service or a covered procedure?
You should review your written materials carefully to ensure everything is as clear as possible. Leave nothing up to interpretation. And then regularly engage with plan members to understand their expectations, needs, and feedback.
Developing clear contracts, informative brochures, and transparent website content will help you manage and meet expectations. Also, train your staff to use scripts when selling your dental membership plans to ensure consistent messaging.
Ensuring Quality Of Care
It’s critical that you don’t compromise the quality of care in a quest to attract members through cost-effective plans. Nothing will sink your dental practice faster than cutting corners or getting a reputation for sloppy dental work.
You must continually assess the quality of care provided within the membership offerings to ensure it is equal to the care provided to other patients if you want to maintain your patients’ trust. Regularly reviewing patient outcomes, member satisfaction, and clinical protocols helps maintain high standards of care.
Dental membership plans may become a core piece of your business, so programs must align with your overall commitment to excellent dental care.
Dental membership plans can be a powerful tool for growing revenue, boosting profits, and building your brand. When executed correctly, these plans represent a commitment to patient-centered care. Cutting out the insurance middleman allows you to grow revenue while passing significant savings to your patients.
Dental membership plans are quickly becoming a standard practice in the industry. If you still need to launch a dental membership plan, now is the time to start. Fortunately, dental membership software solutions like Pearly.co, can help you simplify and automate the process to help make a smooth transition for dental practices like yours.
A dental membership plan won’t replace dental insurance entirely. Still, it is a powerful tool for growing dental practice revenue over the next decade. So take advantage of it now, before your competitors do.