Not in recent memory Has the dental industry experienced the degree of disruption it has faced in 2020. Dental practices across the country have had to close and dental patients have also faced difficult circumstances. Their employers have been impacted by the pandemic and many companies have been forced to furlough, lay off and/or cut benefits. As a result, many people in our communities and patient bases have been left without dental insurance. This is an issue that we all need to overcome in the coming year, an issue that my practice addresses through the development of a personalized dental enrollment plan.
The History of Solomon Family Dentistry
In difficult times like these, I am fortunate to practice dentistry to provide people with the care they need to stay healthy. Inspired by my father, who was also a dentist, I entered the dental profession in 2007. Today I practice in the same family dental practice my father started in 1979. At that time he was a solo practitioner who opened his business out of a desire to help the people of Summerville, South Carolina. He kept his practice doors open for patients six days a week, which was rare at the time. It was his example of true dedication that shaped my own personal mission to help patients. Like my father, I also work six days a week at Solomon Family Dentistry. Over the years, the practice has grown and now has six locations with 18 dentists and a staff of 160.
It’s our practice’s patient-focused philosophy that led us to offer the Solomon Savers Discount Plan, a dental membership plan through Launch Loyalty powered by Careington, a dentist-owned company that also dates back to 1979. . Launch Loyalty worked with our firm to design a custom in-house dental membership plan that worked best for our clientele.
Reduce patient dental costs
Recognizing the detrimental impact that lack of dental insurance had on patients’ dental and overall health, I wanted to offer our patients an incentive to seek out the dental treatment they really needed. Our uninsured patients came to our practice when they were experiencing oral pain or a dental problem, but were reluctant to pay for x-rays or exams to determine the underlying problem. They did so for fear of the high cost of the procedures. So we decided that our membership plan would offer our cash-paying patients two free cleanings, two exams and two x-rays per year, as well as discounts on other dental treatments.
We began offering the Solomon Savers Discount Plan to meet the needs of our uninsured and underinsured patients who wanted to meet their oral health needs but had fixed budgets. By offering free exams and x-rays, patients learned what treatment was needed. By not paying for these services, they were able to apply their finances to their dental procedures.
Our uninsured and underinsured patients are now much more willing to seek care using the membership plan approach. Additionally, we have found that patients who purchase the plan stay with the practice longer.
The effect of COVID-19
The pandemic has affected virtually every industry, and dentistry is no exception. The costs of practicing dentistry have increased due to new infection control measures and requirements for personal protective equipment. However, production has declined in many cases due to social distancing and the loss of insurance benefits due to rising unemployment. In fact, the unemployment rate hit 14.7% during the pandemic, the highest rate since the Great Depression.1 This increase in unemployment is expected to result in the loss of employer-sponsored dental insurance for more than 16 million Americans.2
It is expected that with an increase in the number of people who do not have access to dental insurance through employers, the average dental practice will likely experience a decrease in preventive care, including health check-ups and exams. On the other hand, an increase in major procedures, such as tooth extractions and root canals, is expected.
COVID-19 provides another reason to delay or avoid routine oral care. A study by the American Dental Association indicated that a decrease in routine care dental services was to be expected in the early stages of the pandemic, followed by a period of reduction in more expensive services as the pandemic continues. .3 Looking forward, dental claims are expected to decline over the next three years, including a 34% drop this year, a 7% drop next year, and a 5% drop the following year.4
Success with our Dental Membership Plan
Our practice has seen a significant increase in the number of patients who no longer have dental insurance with their employer due to job loss. Many patients are financially strained and understandably delay dental care. I believe dental membership schemes are particularly vital now, benefiting dental practices by attracting patients who otherwise would not seek dental care, while benefiting cash-paying patients by offering significant savings and reducing barriers to seeking treatment.
Dental membership plans could be particularly useful for dental practices post-pandemic, as studies indicate that approximately 83% of consumers are likely to stay in a dental practice that has an in-house dental membership plan. Additionally, existing patients typically spend about 31% more than new patients.5
If you are considering setting up a dental membership plan for your practice, here are some things to keep in mind when researching a program. We find it extremely valuable to work with a company that not only offers a private label plan that meets the needs of our customer base, but also manages the administration of the plan so that we can focus on patient care. .
Administering the plan can be time consuming and expensive. Dental practices should ensure that the company they choose for their plan provides the following key areas of program administration:
- Legal and Compliance—It is essential to ensure that your plan is compliant at the federal and state levels. Many administrators in the market do not offer plan compliance, leaving a practice with costly legal fees.
- Automated billing—Managing patient billing and renewals is difficult. Working with an administrator who ensures payment information is stored in a compliant manner allows us to automatically collect plan fees at renewal time.
- Training-Having your staff sufficiently trained on your program helps considerably. This ensures that they are well prepared to speak with patients about the value of the plan. Our administrator provides our staff with ongoing training through webinars, videos and meetings to discuss program performance strategies.
- Marketing-One-to-one marketing communications help build awareness and engage new, existing, and dormant patients. In fact, I believe the marketing support we receive for our program has proven invaluable and has been instrumental in the high success of our plan.
- Customer service-Providing superior customer support is key to program satisfaction. Our patients can speak with a representative five days a week, so our staff doesn’t have to spend time answering patient questions about the plan.
- Custom website—A dental membership plan website customized for your practice allows your patients to get detailed program information.
- Registration and retention—It is important to offer several registration options to your patients. Our patients can enroll at any time through our plan website or over the phone with call center assistance. Our admin can even help patients with renewals and payment method issues, which greatly helps with retention.
Choose the right administrator
Finding the right administrator for a dental membership plan is an important aspect of solving the challenges that dentists face today. Do not try to manage the administration yourself; leave it to the experts.
Working with an administrator is less expensive, less risky, and eliminates hassles. At Solomon Family Dentistry, we were happy to find a company that ticked all the boxes. With our program through Launch Loyalty, the tedious and costly administration is handled for us, allowing us to focus on patient care. Launch Loyalty even showed us the value of including other discounts in a dental membership plan, like vision care, LASIK, and prescriptions. With the launch of our program, we have seen an increase in patient treatment plan acceptance, an increase in new patients, and greater loyalty among existing patients. In addition to benefiting our practice, we can proudly say that offering a Dental Membership Plan provides invaluable value to our patients by providing much needed savings on dental treatments.
As COVID-related uncertainty remains about what the future of dentistry will look like, we look forward to continuing to provide this valuable, cost-effective solution to our patients, so they don’t have to worry about care. expensive dental.
1. Agarwal S, Sommers B. Insurance coverage after job loss – the importance of ACA during the COVID recession. N English J med. 2020;383:1603–1606.
2. Choi SE, Simon L, Reidy CA, Barrow JR. Modeling the impact of COVID-19 on dental insurance coverage and use. J Tooth Res. August 28, 2020. doi.org/10.1177/0022034520954126
3. COVID-19: Economic impact on dental practices. American Dental Association. March 23, 2020. https://surveys.ada.org/results/public/YWRhc3VydmV5cy1VUl81aUlYMUVTTUh2Y0NSVU4tNWU3Yjg1YTJlOTQ5N2QwMDE2MjdkZmRh#/pages/Page_e3fd2e25-9bbd-43ce-8252-5179409
4. Bell A. COVID-19 can reduce spending on dental services for 3 years: actuaries. Think advise. April 14, 2020. https://www.thinkadvisor.com/2020/04/14/covid-19-may-cut-dental-services-spending-for-3-years-actuaries/
5. How to improve your customer loyalty program. Loyalty 360. April 2, 2020. https://loyalty360.org/content-gallery/research-and-reports/how-to-uplevel-your-customer-loyalty-program
JASON SOLOMON, DMD, practice at Solomon Family Dentistry, based in Summerville, South Carolina. Visit his practice site at solomondentistry.com.