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A new service offers up-front pricing to dental customers in hopes that transparency will empower patients and bring back the uninsured.
by the National Institute of Dental and Cranofacial Research indicate that approximately 20% of adults age 20-64 have not been to the dentist within the last five years. The reason: Lack of cost awareness.
That’s a problem, but according to Andy McKinley, president of WhyPayMore Dental, it’s also an opportunity.
“The three most common reasons cited for people who don’t go to the dentist regularly were fear, convenience, and cost,” McKinley says. “But the cost factor is not that they think it costs too much. It’s that they don’t know what it costs, and therefore they just stay away.”
But a new dental transparency website could reverse that trend, and open the door to additional patients for dental practices.
Clearing Up Confusion
WhyPayMore Dental is a free online toolkit for consumers that recently launched in the Philadelphia market, with designs on scaling the service nationally. The portal allows consumers to search for dental providers, compare dentists by price, availability, and experience, and schedule an appointment online. That’s not only a win for consumers, McKinley points out, it’s a boon for dental practices.
“We’ve got some recent studies showing that 45% of dental patients do not have insurance,” McKinley says. “That’s one out of every two. If we can successfully tap into that 50% of people who don’t go to a dentist regularly by showing them upfront what they can expect, that’s a huge untapped market.”
McKinley believes that transparency is a good thing. As an example, he paints the picture of a patient who visits the dentist, sits through the examination, then finds out they need a crown which will cost $1,200. The patient says, “Well, that’s a lot of money. I’ll get back to you,” and the practice never hears from them again.
In contrast, McKinley says the patient who does some research on WhyPayMoreDental not only sees the price, they see where the dentist went to school, how long he or she has been in business, and can compare reviews and pricing against other dentists in the area.
“We believe that’s a much more qualified patient,” he says. “As long as the dentist can establish a rapport and credibility with the patient, they should be much more likely to accept treatment.”
WhyPayMore Dental launched in May 2015, and McKinley says the initial reaction from dentists was interesting. While a small percentage, mostly older dentists, were not particularly interested in signing on for the service, many were intrigued.
McKinley explains that the way the WhyPayMore Dental model is set up, the company mitigates the advertising risk a practice would take in looking to attract new patients. Traditionally, a practice might run print ads or television commercials, or perhaps conduct a direct mail campaign to reach latent consumers.
“Then they hope and cross their fingers that it gives them a proper return on investment,” McKinley says. “But if nobody responds, they’re out of pocket for all that money.”
Conversely, WhyPayMore Dental takes the risk. The company is responsible for driving consumers to its website. Once there, a prequalifying process begins of selecting a practiced and requesting an appointment. Only when a patient has secured an appointment is a cost incurred by the dental practice.
“Legally we’re not allowed to vary the charge based on the services offered,” McKinley explains. “The charge is the same no matter what service the patient is going to receive.”
McKinley believes that transparency in pricing keeps all dentists in check. It keeps pricing from getting out of line. But, he adds, that’s also the beauty of the website.
“Nobody wants to pay more for less, but some people will pay more for more,” he explains. “That’s why they have Super 8 Motels, and Ceasar’s or the Ritz.”
In other words, some dental practice might charge more for particular services, but maybe one dentist has been practicing longer, or is operating state-of-the-art technology, or has received higher reviews.
“We empower the consumer to choose a dentist on their terms and based on whatever is important to them,” McKinley says. “We believe this is going to help the industry as a whole, because dentists are starting to understand what’s important for them to portray to the public.”
And enable dentists to leave the marketing costs and risks to someone else.
“Dentists went to school for dentistry, not necessarily marketing or advertising,” McKinley says. “Let them focus on what they know best, and we’ll focus on what we know best. We think that’s a pretty good marriage.”