Cash vs. insurance: The latest trends in payment in dental practices


How to make sure your dental practice’s bottom line is as strong as it can be.

It’s always interesting to go back and look at statistical trends, not only to gain some historical perspective but also to see how your practice is doing in comparison to the rest of the country.

Using data from the massive library of information at Sikka Software, I went back and looked at the trend of patients paying cash to a practice from 2010 to 2016. Using data gathered from more than 12,500 dental practices throughout the United States, the numbers revealed a fascinating trend.

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The average number of patients paying cash versus using insurance plummeted in the seven-year window. With that, so did the overall percentage of patients paying cash versus using some form of insurance.

Take a look at the numbers below:

Avg. numbers of patients per month paying with cash       Cash patients vs. insurance patients

2010 – 89.16                                                                           28.98%

2011 – 84.83                                                                           27.63%

2012 – 80.42                                                                           26.22%

2013 – 74.58                                                                           24.05%

2014 – 68.0                                                                             21.58%

2015 – 62.91                                                                           19.28%

2016 – 60.75                                                                           18.37%

These numbers could mean one of two things. One, less patients paying with cash are visiting the dental practice in today’s world. Second, more patients have dental insurance than ever before.

So, what does this mean for your practice?

First, it means that your practice’s office manager/front desk/financial specialists will need to be up to date on the latest information regarding insurance. Absolutely, insurance is a pain point for many practices. It was the top pain point for dentists in a recent Dental Products Report poll, in fact. However, you can help ease the pain by learning from experts. There are plenty of resources out there who can help, including Teresa Duncan with Odyssey Management, who serves as the insurance editor for DPR.

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Second, while the number of patients who pay with cash has dropped, it doesn’t mean that they’ve reached “rarity” status. Your front desk still needs to know the best way to make these patients feel welcomed and special. Some practices offer “cash discounts” for services, but it often undervalues the work the dentist and team has put in on their services. You work hard for that money. While cash is nice, the services you provide for it are just as valuable as the services you provide that are covered by insurance.

Third, there are always the hybrid patients who have insurance covering part of their procedures but not all. Make sure you have a patient financing system like CareCredit available to offer to patients. Don’t let the fear of not being able to pay for a procedure up front and at once keep your case acceptance rates from where they should be. By offering patient financing, you’re giving your patients another chance to say “yes” to your services.

So how do the numbers above compare to what you see in your practice on a daily, weekly or monthly basis? Knowing your numbers can help your dental practice make sure its bottom line is as strong as it can be. Remember, you’re not just operating a dental practice-you’re operating a business as well. Knowing your numbers is good for your business.

Note: Want to learn more about what Sikka Software can do for your practice? Practice Mobilizer is the free app that lets you send HIPAA compliant video messages, track patient arrival times, provide zip code specific fee data and more. Click here.


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