Using an in-house discount plan to attract, appoint, and retain fee-for-service patients

May 20, 2014
In today's economic environment, fee-for-service dentistry may seem like something of the past. PPOs now dominate the insurance market and likely your patient base as well.

By Jen McGuire

In today's economic environment, fee-for-service dentistry may seem like something of the past. PPOs now dominate the insurance market and likely your patient base as well. Where have the fee-for-service patients gone?

According to the ADA, access to dental insurance is the No. 1 predictor of a dental visit. For those without insurance, routine dental care often falls to the bottom of the priority list. In fact, 74% of the 50 million people without dental insurance see a dentist only when they have a perceived problem. How can we bring these 37 million people back into the dental office for the regular, preventative care they need?


I need to get the oil changed in my car. I know I should (I'm overdue). But finding the time, making the call, and spending the money make it easy to put off. When I received an email with a $10 coupon off an oil change from the shop down the road, I knew it was time to stop procrastinating and finally get my oil changed.

Most patients without dental benefits feel the same way about dental care as I feel about oil changes. They understand that skipping routine preventative care results in more expensive dental work down the line. But it's easy to put off until someone gives you a reason to say yes.

To maximize your marketing results, target people close to your practice location and offer an incentive that will motivate them to make an appointment. An in-house discount plan is an effective incentive for bringing in people who want affordable care and do not have insurance available to offset the cost.

Options for in-house discount plans vary. But most practices package preventative care (i.e., two cleanings, an exam, X-rays) with a 10% to 15% discount on restorative and cosmetic treatment. The annual plan fee is usually priced at roughly a 10% discount, significantly less than the typical PPO discount.

By target marketing this type of plan to fee-for-service patients, you give people a reason to say yes to dental care from your practice. Patients pay slightly less out of pocket, and the office increases new-patient flow, patient retention, and case acceptance.


What's the difference between saying "Good morning" and "Thank you for calling Dr. Smith's office. This is Jen, how may I help you?" Phone training.

The front desk team should be trained on overall phone skills with an emphasis on converting phone calls into appointments. After phone training, team members should be able to take control of each call and lead the caller toward scheduling an appointment. Inbound calls regarding the in-house discount plan should have specific call scripts to prepare the team for answering questions such as:

  • Is this plan the same as dental insurance? Does this plan work with my insurance?
  • What's included in the savings plan?
  • Do I have to pay the entire plan fee upfront?
  • What happens if I move? What's your refund policy?


When was the last time you went to the gym? If you are a member of a gym, you probably went recently to avoid wasting the money you paid as a membership fee.

An in-house discount plan provides the same incentive for patients to keep recare appointments. They have already paid for the care upfront, or on a monthly basis, and do not want to waste the money spent on these appointments. These hygiene visits are critical to practice profitability since 70% of restorative work should be diagnosed from the hygiene department. The discount on restorative treatment included in an in-house discount plan provides the incentive, and combined with the convenience of same-day dentistry, you make it easy for patients to say yes to your case presentation.

Creating and implementing an in-house discount plan can help you attract, appoint, and retain new fee-for-service patients and improve the profitability of your practice. To learn more about in-house discount plan options and training resources, visit

With more than a decade of marketing experience in the health-care industry, Jen McGuire now leads the marketing of Henry Schein Dental's Business Solutions. As part of this offering, Jen developed and launched dentistry's first wellness program, Total HealthTM Beyond the Mouth. Contact her at (800) 372-4346 or at [email protected]. Learn more at

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