With a good portion of high-risk patients having received a COVID-19 vaccine, and with optimism growing among patients, many dentists are seeing a surge of returning patients interested in the care that they delayed for the past year. This is welcome news for dentists, and it presents a great opportunity to encourage patients to form good habits, while boosting your long-term revenue.
Most dentists see their patients twice a year, but only briefly. We encourage our patients to brush, floss, avoid sugary foods and drinks, and return in six months. Many patients do show up six months later, but some don’t. Some return in seven months, some in a year, and some come to see us the next time something hurts.
This is bad for their health and also bad for practice revenue. When a patient misses a six-month hygiene appointment, it doesn’t just mean lost revenue from that appointment. It also means you don’t have an opportunity to spot an emerging issue, recommend proper care, and provide treatment that will bring in revenue.
With many patients eager to get back into healthy habits, I encourage all of my patients to sign up for the office’s membership program. This is a key opportunity for them, and by offering patients a membership, we incentivize them to receive regular dental care.
Most offices offer a small discount to entice patients to enroll in a membership plan. These discounts typically range from 10%–20%. But when you track patients who have a membership versus those who do not, dentists typically find that they make as much, if not more, profit from member patients compared to their general patient population.
How does it work?
It’s counterintuitive, but here’s how it works. This is the same reason why dentists should encourage patients to sign up for memberships now more than ever. When patients are members of your practice, they become better patients. Part of that is the psychology of belonging to something, but a big part of it is the fact that they’re paying you for preventive care every month and they want to receive the care they’ve paid for.
Think about it: if you pay in advance for tickets to an event, you’re much less likely to cancel than you would be if you waited to buy tickets at the gate. It’s the same with teeth. By paying a regular monthly fee, patients will be sure to keep their six-month hygiene appointments. Otherwise, they lose some of the money they’ve already paid you.
The recurring payments of membership programs differentiate them from standard discount plans. With a standard discount plan, patients pay a small fee in order to receive a better price. They often just look for the lowest price when something goes wrong, and they probably won’t return in six months. They may not even return for several years unless something goes wrong. But with a membership plan, patients are committing, both psychologically and financially, to regular care.
To drive home the point: this commitment means both better health and more revenue for the practice. You will spot issues and be able to treat them—and get paid for them—as they occur.
Thomas M. Cleary, Jr., DDS, practices in Easthampton, Massachusetts, and is an active participant in organized dentistry. He is a speaker with dental associations and host of the Toothonomics podcast. Dr. Cleary is continually improving his practice through increased efficiency and by implementing the best techniques and products, and he has successfully changed his relationship with the major dental insurers. Dr. Cleary is the cofounder of Cirrus Dental (mycirrusdental.com), which offers the Cirrus Membership Platform, a platform that allows dentists to address some of their biggest economic challenges with an innovative solution. Contact Dr. Cleary at [email protected].