Consumers are frustrated over the perceived cost of dental care, or the lack of coverage, while dentists lament the hassle of dealing with complex insurance issues and reduced reimbursement. Easing patient concerns, reducing hassles and bringing in new patients could be use a couple of clicks away.
According to Dave Monahan, patients want an experience when they engage with their dentist.
Dave Monahan has spoken with several hundred dentists over the past year. Two topics that come up most in conversation are attracting new patients into their practice, and dealing with insurers and complex insurance issues.
Monahan, founder and CEO of Kleer, a free cloud-based dental membership plan designed to help dentists attract and retain fee-for-service patients while providing access to affordable dental care, says the two topics are connected.
“Most dentists get their new patients from insurers, but they’re not happy with the terms of the insurance the patients are coming into their practice with,” Monahan says. “So, there’s this sort of issue that they’re dealing with.”
And in terms of bringing new patients into their practices, many dentists are not doing a very good job.
WHAT WORKS, WHAT DOESN’T
Monahan explains historically in the dental marketplace, dentists turn to local advertising modes such as direct mail, inserts in publications or even church bulletins to attract new patients. Those channels of communication, he says, are fading fast.
“The old, traditional ways of advertising locally just don’t work any more,” he says.
What does work is a referral program — incentivizing existing patients, their friends and family to refer new patients to the practice. There are many variations on this theme, but most offer credit or discounts on services to existing as well as new patients.
“When it’s done right, it’s very successful,” Monahan says.
The other avenue is digital advertising. Facebook, Monahan points out, is a great platform for narrowing in on the types of patients and consumers dentists want to reach. A good website is also key —one that focuses not just on the clinical side of dentistry.
“Patients want an experience when they engage with their dentist,” he says. “They want to know that you care about patients, and that they can trust you.”
And yet, many dentists remain intimidated by the internet and social media platform —but that’s no reason to shy away.
“There are consultants out there, plenty of people who can help dentists through that, and very simple and inexpensive tools they can put in place,” Monahan says. “It’s a matter of taking the step to reach out and ask for help. Because the dentists I’ve seen that have done [digital marketing] swear by it.”
A KLEER OPTION
Monahan’s research into consumers’ oral health habits uncovered some interesting information — well beyond the basics of why more than 50 percent don’t go to the dentist on an annual basis. Digging deeper, he found nearly 80 percent of consumers he spoke with want more dental care. They believe they can’t afford it, or don’t have dental insurance.
“So on one side we have dentists who would like to offer their services more directly, and on the other side are consumers who want more care but don’t think they can afford it,” Monahan says. “That’s where Kleer came from. We connect the two.”
Consumers, Monahan says, want a dental plan that’s affordable, transparent and easy to understand. Kleer enables dentists to set up their dental care plan in as little as 15 minutes. They can pick and choose options, offer set pricing and show comparisons to market rates. Patients can download a mobile app or open the website and select a dental plan in two minutes.
“It’s very consumer oriented,” he says. “It’s what consumers expect of apps and services they purchase today. Simple to purchase and to use.”
Monahan says about 10 percent of dentists offer their own dental plans to patients, but they’re typically paper-based. As such, renewing patients each year can be time consuming and expensive. In contrast, the Kleer app has an auto renew feature.
“And the dentist doesn’t have to do anything,” he adds.
Monahan says that under most insurance plans, patients are paying premiums and have to deal with deductibles and co-pays. When everything is netted out, approximately 50 percent of all payments made by patients end up with the dentist. The remaining 50 percent go to the insurer.
“Under a membership plan, dentists clear 90 percent of all patient payments,” he says. “We take about 10 percent. So it automatically boosts their top and bottom line.”
Top and bottom line?
Dentists, Monahan says, don't pay anything to get started. No patient fee, and no annual fee.
“We don’t get paid unless the dentist gets paid,” Monahan says. “We haven’t spent a lot of time going out to talk to dentists yet. But once you spend a few moments with them, they get it.”
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