Tap Uninsured Patients and Dental Membership Plans for Growth and Profitability

Dave Monahan


Most dentists think the biggest hurdle to growth and profitability is increasing the number of new patients. This is misguided for two reasons. First, new patient acquisition is very costly, time consuming, and difficult. Most efforts do not pay dividends. Second, the largest growth opportunity is right in front of their eyes. It is their existing, uninsured patients who come in their door every day.

This group has millions of dollars of untreated dentistry in their patient charts right now. The key is unlocking that potential by moving them from a pay-as-you-go model to a subscription model. In doing so, dentists can increase treatment acceptance and revenue by 50% and double the value of their practice.

Options for Patients 

Your uninsured patients know that dental health is critical to their overall health. Unfortunately, many of these patients avoid dental visits and decline recommended treatment due to cost, fear of cost, and a lack of coverage. The good news is that 89% of these uninsured patients are interested in purchasing a dental care plan, but believe dental insurance is too expensive and complex, according to market research conducted by Finch Brands for Kleer. In fact, only 7% of uninsured consumers purchase dental insurance if it is not subsidized by their employer, reports the National Association of Dental Plans State of the Dental Benefits Market 2015 report.

So how do you take advantage of this huge opportunity while providing your uninsured patients with the care they want? Membership plans are the answer. Membership plans are dental care plans offered by dentists directly to their patients. Patients pay a monthly or annual subscription directly to their dentist for preventive care and discounts off all other treatment. 

These plans are vastly different from dental insurance and discount dental plans because dentists are in control. Dentists design plans to work best for their practice, including setting the subscription price and fee schedule. Patients make payments directly to their dentist, avoiding the cost, hassles, and overhead of a third party.

Uninsured patients skip dental visits and avoid treatment because they don’t have coverage. As a result, they aren’t getting the treatment they want and need. Also, they don’t purchase dental insurance due to cost and complexity. This is where membership plans come in. Membership plans create a “membership club effect,” mitigating fear and giving patients peace of mind. These patients feel protected by the coverage that membership plans provide, so they visit more often and accept more treatment. 

We recently conducted research and found that on average, uninsured patients who are on a membership plan accept 55% more treatment in a year than uninsured patients who are not on a plan. The same research also showed that a typical dental office can double the value of its practice by converting its uninsured patient base to membership plans.

Membership plans are a great solution for all of your uninsured patients. This includes active uninsured patients, retiring patients who are losing dental benefits, and dormant patients who have not visited your practice in a while. Also, membership plans are a great way to attract new patients to your practice by attracting consumers who have not gone to the dentist in a while as well as local small businesses that don’t offer a dental benefit to their employees. 

Options for Dentists

So, why are membership plans beneficial to dentists? For dentists, membership plans: 

• Improve patient loyalty and oral health

• Enable dentists to convert their hygiene department into a profitable subscription business

• Increase treatment acceptance and revenue by over 50%

• Double the value of the practice, without adding any new patients

• Attract new fee-for-service patients

• Shift control back from insurers

For example, Kleer offers a platform that makes it extremely easy to set up and administer a membership plan. This cloud-based solution simplifies patient purchases and membership plan management. It also eliminates all the paperwork, follow-up, and headaches associated with paper-based plans. It can be customized specifically to the needs of your practice and comes with extra features that help you improve patient loyalty and attract new patients.

As a dentist, your goal is to provide excellent care while growing your practice. A membership plan can help you engage or re-engage your uninsured patients who, on average, make up more than 30% of all existing dental patients, based on an average of the Harris Williams Report: Dental Practice Management Overview of November 2014 and the ADA HPI Report: State of the Dental Market Outlook of 2016. A membership plan provides these patients affordable access to the dental care they want and need, but thought was unavailable to them.

Driving revenue from your existing uninsured patients rather than attempting to attract new patients, which can eat up time and resources, will grow your practice faster and more efficiently, leading to a higher profitability and valuation. Your practice will thrive, and your uninsured patients will be grateful for their healthy smiles.

Mr. Monahan is the CEO of Kleer, an advanced, cloud-based platform that enables dentists to easily design and manage their own membership plan and offer it directly to their patients. Previously, he was the president and CEO of wearable device company FitLinxx. While at Microsoft from 1999 to 2006, he developed product, market, and partnering stratregies that helped the company and thousands of its partners enter new markets and grow. He is a graduate of Pennsylvania State University and Loyola University. He may be reached at info@kleer.com.

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