I have helped thousands of dental practices across the nation set up and manage in-office dental plans where patients pay a monthly or yearly fee to the practice to get benefits and discounts. Over the past few years, I have noticed five common trends among practices whose office membership programs have failed.
Not Having a Proper System
One of the biggest reasons why these plans don’t work is because the practice doesn’t have a system working for it. I see too many offices setting up these programs using three-ring binders. They put financial data and patient data in the binders to help them track the patient signups for their program, which is against PCI compliance.
It also causes too much manual work for the front office team as the program grows and cannot scale as they reach hundreds or even thousands of patients. Each day or week, the front office team has to flip through the binder and manually look at each patient’s file, and then they have to call those patients and get permission from them to run their credit card.
This can take so much time, especially if you want to grow your program to a significant number of members. When you don’t have a proper system for managing your program, the process gets stuck in your front office team’s head, which means if they quit or get fired, the program will fail because of a lack of a proper system.
Other practices will try and use practice management software. But this software wasn’t built to manage dental membership plans. It was built to manage schedules and insurance. The problem with using practice management software is that you never truly know how many members are signed up or what type of revenue your program is generating for your practice. These are two key performance indicators that you need to understand success and growth.
Your Team Isn’t on Board
Far too often, I have helped dental offices create a plan, but then they failed to educate and communicate to their team members about the new idea they were starting to implement. You, your front office team, and even your assistants and hygienists all can be so instrumental in getting your patients to sign up.
You need to communicate to your team and tell them why you want to create an in-office plan for your practice. Educate your team about why this type of program will benefit them (hint: less dependence on PPOs equals an easier to manage practice). Also educate your team about why it will benefit your patients. Patients who don’t have dental insurance get access to benefits and discounts. Plus, they don’t have to deal with the red tape of dental insurance.
I worked with a practice that started a program, and the practice owner never educated the staff about the concept, which resulted in no patients for the program. Your team is extremely important for the success of your in-office plan. You need to make sure you get them on board and hold them accountable to your goals.
Not Using It As a Marketing Tool
I strongly recommend finding the existing patients in your practice who are uninsured and reaching out to them about your in-office plan. Doing this is fairly easy, since these patients trust your office already.
If you truly want to grow your in-office membership plan, you need to use it as an external marketing tool. Set up direct mail ads that get delivered to retirees who are likely to be uninsured. Create Facebook ads for young families. Reach out to local small businesses and sign their employees up for your plan.
Marketing is pretty simple. It just takes action and consistency. When you launch a new program or a new service in your practice, find creative ways to spread the word. Patients are not going to know when you have created the plan. You need to reach out and educate them. Using your in-office membership program as a marketing tool will help you build a loyal patient base and reduce your dependence on PPOs while generating a predictable recurring revenue stream for your practice.
Not Communicating to Every Patient
Do you know if your patients are happy with their dental benefits? I would assume that they are not and that they barely understand what they get from their dental insurance plan. Practices that have been the most successful with growing their program make sure they communicate and educate every patient about their in-office plan.
You will find that patients will leave their dental insurance to join your program or that they will refer a family member or friend to your office because they don’t have dental insurance and can benefit from joining your in-office plan.
Not Automating Payments and Renewals
When you create an in-office membership program, you should think like Amazon Prime, the most successful membership program in the world. Amazon doesn’t flip through a three-ring binder and call you when you need to renew. Amazon automates it.
If you’re manually running cards and re-enrolling patients in your program, you will have revenue gaps because patients don’t pay predictably. The business purpose of creating and growing an in-office membership program is to generate predictable recurring revenue for your practice.
When patients automatically pay monthly or yearly, they are more likely to commit to the schedule. If they have to cancel, they have “skin in the game,” so you know they will reschedule with your practice.
I have spent countless hours in practices that have been very successful in growing membership programs. They make sure they have a system, get their team on board, use it as a marketing tool, communicate to every patient, and automate renewals and payments.
If you think about it, it is very easy to grow and become successful with your program. I have seen practices sign up hundreds of patients to their program within a few months simply by following these guidelines.
Mr. Comstock is the founder of BoomCloud Apps, a software company that allows dental offices to easily create, organize, track, and automate an in-house membership program. You can download a free e-book about membership programs or schedule a live demo. He also travels the nation doing live workshops about creating and growing in-office membership plans. Contact him at email@example.com.