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The most frustrating phone call dental offices receive regularly is the patient who calls to tell the office they no longer have dental insurance and they need to cancel their cleaning appointment. It is trying because it results in an opening in our schedule but is also frustrating because the patients feel they can’t come in without insurance. Normally, it doesn’t matter what your staff says during this phone call, the outcome is the patient saying they will call back when they have new insurance.

Now, I could talk about how we as an industry have set up this culture with our patients that insurance is necessary to come to the office to get treatment but that is another article all together. What I do want to focus on is that I have now found a solution for my office to be able to retain those patients and keep them active in our practice.

I had heard of membership clubs for a while but never took the time to investigate it myself until about a year ago, when I stopped at Illumitrac’s booth at the AADOM convention and finally took the time to learn about it. Up until that point, anytime I heard of the concept, I wondered why I would discount treatment for my patient and why have patients pay a small fee monthly when they pay the full amount currently at the appointment.

We started a membership club in our office this year and we really love it. I want to explain how a membership club benefits our practice, for anyone who may want to know more.

Basically, a membership club is much like any club you might join, such as a fitness club or a discount store membership like Costco. Specifically, when your office is able to offer a membership, the patient pays an upfront cost to be part of your membership club and then pays monthly to receive certain dental care.

For example, the upfront cost to get into the membership club could be $99 and then the patient pays $59 a month for the duration of their membership. For that fee, over the course of a year they receive two cleanings, exams, and necessary x-rays. They also receive a discount on out-of-pocket costs for any dental work they might need.

Based on my experience, here are the top four reasons I think every office should consider a membership club.

1. Membership allows your team an option to help your patients get dental healthcare without relying on insurance.

 

If we can help patients avoid canceling their regular recare appointments because of out-of-pocket costs for the cleaning appointment, we can help the patient improve or maintain their dental health. On the other hand, if they avoid coming in because of insurance or cost, what could have been a small issue might could grow into something large during their absence. As their dentist, I would rather them come regularly to the office to maintain their health and address issues while they are small, even if we do it at a discounted fee. The truth is giving a discount is better than not seeing them at all, which means no production for that patient while they are away and it also means not helping our patients maintain their dental health.

2. Your team has an option when the patient calls to cancel because they lost their insurance.

 

A membership program solves this issue by giving your office the ability to keep the patients in the schedule who normally would have cancelled because of a lack of insurance. Patients feel that they can’t come to the dentist if they don’t have insurance. And assume that there’s no way they could afford out-of-pocket costs for dental work. The membership program shows patients how they can pay a small monthly amount for the work they need, which allows them to come for dental work without the fear of a costly appointment. I would rather our patients pay monthly and come to their cleanings so they remain an active patient in the practice, instead of having them cancel and not come back until they get insurance down the road (or until they’re in a lot of pain and can’t put it off anymore).
3. Your team can focus on dental health, not on insurance.

 

My team now has an option to help them be able to focus more on our patients’ dental health, whether they have insurance or not. I know how frustrating it can be when patients need dental care but delay it because they are worried about money or not having insurance. Offering this membership plan allows my team to help all patients move forward with treatment and our patients appreciate the fact that our office has something in place to help them get the dental care they need. It shines a light on our true focus, patient care, rather on the need for dental insurance and improves patient loyalty because patients feel like the plan is a good deal for them.
4. A membership plan will help get more new patients in the door.

 

There are two reasons that a membership club will bring more patients into your office. First, prospective patients without insurance often call worried about the price of the cleaning or some dental procedure they need. Offering a membership program allows us to get these patients in for their dental care, which results in an increase in our number of new patients.

Second, because we decided to work with Illumitrac, we have the ability to name our membership program after our office. I did not realize that this would be a benefit when we first began, but it has been a significant boost to our program. Illumitrac is software that helps us with the administration of the program we offer, which not only saves staff time, it also allowed us to name our program Scripps Rock Dental Membership Club. How does this help with new patients? When our current patients are talking with other people who mention that they don’t have insurance, our patients tell them that our office offers a membership club that is exclusively ours as a benefit to them. This exclusivity has noticeably increased our number of new patient referrals.

If you and your team are tired of having patients cancel because they lost their insurance, I highly recommend that you consider a membership club for your office. Please be sure to check your state laws regarding your ability to offer and advertise a program like this in your state. I can tell you that I am incredibly pleased with our decision to implement Scripps Rock Dental Membership Club into our office and I always want to take the time to share with others why it has worked for us.

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Laura Hatch

Laura Hatch has committed years of study to learning how to manage and empower team members and partnered with her husband to build and manage two fee for-service dental practices. Twelve years later, she founded Front Office Rocks, which offers web-based, on-demand front office training for dental practices. As the leading authority on virtual dental front office training, Laura helps dental professionals who want to be better at what they do gain the training they need through online video courses, live seminars and coaching.

Laura has been published in Dental Assisting Digest, Dentaltown, and Dentistry IQ. She is also a fellow of the American Association of Dental Office Managers, a national and international speaker on dental practice management for leading dental authorities, state and local dental societies, study clubs, and an advisor to several companies within the dental community. She is a member of the National Speakers Association and the Speaking Consulting Network. Laura was recognized as one of DPR’s Top 25 Women in Dentistry in 2016.  When Laura isn’t managing at the practice, you can find her on Dentaltown or in her own “Ask Laura” forum, where she responds to dental team members’ questions and shares her experience and expertise as a dental office manager.