Cathy Jameson, PhD
In the 2003 surveys published by the American Dental Association, the number one reason people gave for not seeking dental care was cost. This also is the main reason people do not proceed with treatment once it has been presented.
Finding ways for your patients to "afford" the dentistry is more important than ever. Get involved with a patient financing program. However, establishing such a program and maximizing it are two different things. Learn to use the program to the fullest degree. In my upcoming series of columns, I will outline six ways to build your practice and overcome the "fear of cost" barrier by incorporating a patient financing program more extensively into your practice.
It all starts with determining the value of your average treatment plan. If one more person per week proceeds with treatment because he or she can afford it, what would that mean to you? Take one treatment-plan fee, multiply it by four weeks in the month, and then multiply that figure by 12 months in the year to see what it would mean to the productivity of the practice.
For example, if one person per week goes ahead with $500 worth of treatment because you make the financing of dentistry comfortable for that patient, let's see what it looks like:
$500 per week x 4 weeks = $2,000
$2,000 per month x 12 = $48,000 per year
Do your own math. What would this look like for you?
Now, let's look at another possibility. What if one patient a day might be able to proceed with $500 worth of treatment if he or she had a convenient way to pay for it?
$500 per day x 200 days per year (average number of days worked by a dental team) = $100,000 per year of additional revenue
An additional $100,000 in revenue per year could be yours if only one person per day goes ahead with a minimal amount of treatment because he or she can spread out the payments through your patient financing program and not have to come up with a large amount of money at one time. (And I am talking about $500 - not $5,000!)
Step 1: Introduce your new financing program to your entire patient family
In a special mailing - or in your regularly published patient-education newsletter - tell your existing patient family about your new financing program. Present the program in an exciting, informative manner - one which stresses the benefits to the patient and his or her family.
In this special mailing, include a brochure and an application for the program. Make it easy for the patient to become involved. Eliminate as many barriers as possible. Some patients in your practice will not need the program. If they don't need financial assistance, they won't apply. But, these patients may pass the information on to someone who does. Let your patients become your "sales force."
Others may not be coming to you on a regular basis or may be putting off needed or desired treatment because of the fear of how costly it will be. Still other patients may have completed one phase of treatment, but have not scheduled the next phase of treatment because of the cost. If this is the case, establishing a line of credit may break the cost barrier. You will see more people going ahead with treatment and more people going ahead with an entire treatment plan, rather than doing a minimal amount of dentistry.
In addition, if some patients are interested in cosmetic dentistry, but think they can't afford it, this might just be the answer they have been seeking. Remember, most people are more interested in how much something will cost per month than how much the total investment will be. If patients want something badly enough, and they can fit a monthly payment into their budget, they might just say "yes" to treatment!
The number one reason why people do not go to the dentist or do not accept recommended treatment is concern about the cost of treatment. Introducing your clients to your patient financing program via a newsletter or special mailing will address this concern.
Be interested in gaining a higher level of case acceptance. Most practices can double from within by nurturing their own patient family and making treatment more affordable. Maximize your market share by focusing intently on the patients you already have in your practice. Make the financing of your dentistry comfortable, and increase case acceptance one patient at a time!
Dr. Cathy Jameson is president and CEO of Jameson Management, Inc., an international dental practice-management consulting, lecturing, seminar, and product provider. An accomplished speaker, writer, and workshop leader, Cathy earned a doctorate in organizational psychology, focusing her studies on effective stress-controlled management. Cathy's books, "Great Communication = Great Production" and "Collect What You Produce," are top sellers for PennWell Books. You may reach her toll-free at (877) 369-5558, email her at firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit her Web site at www.jamesonmanagement.com.