3 reasons dental membership plans will save your practice

September 28, 2018
Dave Monahan

Dave Monahan, CEO of Kleer, has a passion for creating technology-enabled businesses that improve people’s lives. Monahan’s advocation for subscription-based dental care led to the founding of Kleer in 2016 and phenomenal growth in Kleer dental practices and membership since Kleer’s pilot launch in September 2017. He previously served as President and CEO of FitLinxx, a leader in the wearables market.

As insurance takes a bigger and bigger part of your income, it's time to look for a different solution.

One of the most important trends to emerge in dental office management over the past few years has been Dental Membership Plans. The concept is not new, but the impact on the operation and financial performance of a practice can be tremendous.

More and more practices are embracing Dental Membership Plans for a multitude of expected and unexpected reasons. Simplicity and a pent-up demand from uninsured patients are just two of the reasons why practices are converting to a subscription-based dentistry model. Why? The subscription-based economy is hot and it’s impacting consumers and businesses at all levels of the American economy.

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Consumers love the convenience, transparency and ease of budgeting that comes with the ability to “pay as they go” on a monthly (or sometimes yearly) subscription basis. And a significant number have become accustomed to doing business in such a manner, joining everything from Netflix to Peloton to Blue Apron.

For all flavors of businesses, including dental practices, the subscription-based economy provides a meaningful route to creating an increased loyal customer base and generating high-value, recurring revenue.

For dental practices, this is a highly attractive incentive compared to the traditional dental model based on inconsistent patient visits, one-off procedures and reduced/limited reimbursements from insurance. The loyal patient - and the recurring revenue stream they create - holds greater value over time. Call it the “membership club-effect.”

You see, patients paying a monthly subscription fee seek to get the most out of their monthly membership. They want value for those recurring payments, so they are more engaged, more loyal, more likely to seek treatment - both preventative and procedural. But there’s more to the story. The Dental Membership model can literally transform a practice by deriving incremental value from an often-ignored patient segment - the uninsured.

Let’s face it. We all know dentistry is broken as a business. Insurance companies wield too much power and take too high of a per procedure fee, typically 40 to 50 percent. Low insurance reimbursement has served to diminish the financial viability of the industry. In fact, over the past 20 years, as the total dental market grew 70 percent, dental practice profits have remained flat as practices’ cost of supplies, equipment and staff have increased. That’s simply not right or fair. 

Dental Membership Plans enable dental practices to take back control and tilt the financial playing field in favor of the very people most invested in delivering quality dental care. That’s you and your staff! To understand the transformational benefits of a Dental Membership Plan, consider these three broad categories of financial impact.

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1. The cold, hard numbers

It may sound counterintuitive to traditional thinking, but Dental Membership Plan members are your most profitable patients. That’s because typical Dental Membership Plan members accept the same amount of treatment as insured patients but generate 30 to 50 percent more net revenue once you factor out the cut that insurance companies take for nothing more than administration.

 

Compared to uninsured patients, Dental Membership Plan members are a veritable gold mine. Consider that some 38 million uninsured patients visit the dentist each year. And studies show that the uninsured want dental plans and will pay for them if they’re transparent and affordable. Once on board, Dental Membership Plan patients are two to three times more likely to visit the dentist each year and generate 50-75 percent more revenue when compared to insured patients and uninsured patients not on a Membership Plan.1 The numbers don’t lie. Dental Membership Plans can have an immediate impact on the profitability of your practice.

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2. Building the long-term value of a practice

Aside from the immediate revenue and profit that Dental Membership Plans deliver every day, week and month of a practice’s operation, the long-term impact of an effective Dental Membership Plan is nothing short of astonishing. The long-term endgame of any practice should be to maximize a return on equity when a practice is sold or a dentist retires.

In the broader business world, it’s a known fact that subscription-based businesses can enjoy a premium 2.5 times higher than non-subscription businesses when acquirers or investors come calling. The rationale is obvious. Recurring revenue businesses benefit from a base of established, previously-cultivated customers. This customer base requires no greater investment in marketing or advertising. They are already captive to the practice, an in-place asset. Their presence vastly de-risks an acquisition, allowing acquirers to pay more in return for a sure thing: those subscription patients who are already onboard and engaged.

Consequently, subscription-based dentistry ranks as the number one way you can increase long-term value for your business. The key is to launch your Dental Membership Plan today and have the entire practice commit to building it over the long-term so when you sell or retire you have that recurring revenue already locked in - creating an attractive asset for potential acquirers.

3. Improved operational efficiencies

Aside from the present value of building recurring revenue and the long-term value of a subscription-based practice, the third financial benefit of a Dental Membership Plan is the operational efficiency delivered to your practice. The best Dental Membership Plans reduce the administrative burden of your staff and instead allow them to focus on the most important element of your practice - delivering quality care to your patients.

Every survey and every focus group show that above all else, patients value the quality care they receive when choosing to stay loyal to your practice. So logically, the more your staff engages with patients, the happier your patient base and the greater loyalty they will show in staying compliant with good oral health protocols - a profitable business plan, indeed!

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But if their time is consumed chasing claims, handling denials, keeping the schedule full, conducting patient follow-ups and juggling a myriad of other administrative details that keep them away from interfacing with patients, your staff can’t deliver that degree of care.

 

A high-quality Dental Membership Plan comes fully loaded with tools and leverages technology to automate and streamline administration, providing staff with more time for patient interaction.

For instance, the best Dental Membership Plans leverage cloud computing. The platform can be accessed and updated by you and your patients - from anywhere, anytime. There’s no need to download and maintain it on local computers. It’s easy to use and can be accessed from home or office on your desktop or smartphone, delivering real efficiencies.

Automation is also key. Quality plans automate even the most fundamental tasks to increase time for patient interaction. For instance, plans that integrate payment processing directly in the application allow your staff to stop chasing credit card numbers and late payments. Patients enter their own data once and the rest is handled for you by the platform. Best of all, automatic renewals ensure that your patients stay committed for the long haul, year after year. You won’t need to call and re-sell the service once a plan expires. This next-level automation drives operational efficiencies, reducing administrative burdens and placing more of your people on the front line of providing quality dental treatment.

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Making dollars out of sense

So, the numbers are in. It’s no wonder that Dental Membership Plans have gained so much traction in dentistry in such a short time. When you do the calculations it’s clear (pun intended). Dental Membership Plans are the linchpin play in spurring both short-term profit as well as long-term value for your practice. That spells good news for the industry fighting to regain control over its own destiny and succeed in delivering quality care to patients.

1. Based on actual Kleer customer practice data for the time period 1/1/18-8/31/18

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