Strengthening your business with a membership plan
Louise Bone explores how a membership plan can help your practice survive challenging times
Describing the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on dentistry as ‘challenging’ feels a little like calling a mountain a bump in the road.
It has been no mean feat to keep adapting to the changing guidelines, keep your patients and your team happy, and keep your practice going during these times.
For many this has led to a recognition that they want to create more control in the way they manage their business.
Working with a supportive plan provider can help you to figure out the best way forward
A new business model
When it comes to working in the NHS, depending on your level of commitment, you may have been left feeling a little vulnerable by the amount of funding and communication you had from those in charge during and after the lockdown.
Some private practices operating on a pay-as-you-go (PAYG) basis may have experienced similar feelings of insecurity as their ability to see patients, and therefore earn income, virtually disappeared overnight.
This has left many reflecting on their business model and reconsidering the future direction of their practice.
We’ve seen this in the kinds of enquiries we’ve been receiving from dentists and practice owners. For example, there have been NHS and mixed practice owners wanting to go private, private dentists with a plan wanting to switch to a membership-only basis and/or refocus on growing their members.
No doubt many are reacting to the fact that the vast majority of patients on a plan continued to pay their membership plan fees even when they were unable to see their dentist. In fact, 98% of Practice Plan patients stayed on their plan.
Obviously, the financial security this provided during lockdown was hugely appreciated by practices. But, perhaps just as welcome was the demonstration of loyalty and just how much patients value being part of the practice – especially during what was a very worrying time for the profession.
If you are one of the many dentists now considering introducing a plan into your practice, there are some things worth considering.
For example, if you have an NHS commitment you’ll need to think about: how long you have been seeing your patients; how strong your relationship is with them; how many patients you need to retain to move from NHS to private (often not as many as you think); what the NHS/private provision is in your local area; whether you want to introduce a plan.
Moving to membership-only
If you are considering implementing a plan for the financial stability reasons mentioned above and the health benefits to patients, you might want to consider whether to make membership your default position. This applies whether you are currently NHS or private PAYG.
Practices who moved from NHS to a private membership-only model have said that the transition was smoother than they expected as patients move from paying NHS fees to an affordable monthly fee, rather than face the prospect of lump sums when they needed to attend the practice.
If you already have a plan in place but are thinking of moving to membership-only, often the concern is that patients who aren’t already on your plan will leave. However, as has been demonstrated by the number of patients who remained members of their practice during lockdown, your patients really do value being part of your dental community.
A new acceptance of change
Introducing a plan or moving to membership-only and growing your numbers is a big change in how you run your practice. But the past few months have proven just how adaptable and accepting of changes your team and your patients can be.
Working with a supportive plan provider can help you to figure out the best way forward for your unique situation to make that change as seamless as possible.
We don’t know what future challenges will face the profession or your individual business. But, whether they’re mountains or bumps in the road, a well-populated plan could just help you to get over them that little bit easier.
Louise Bone has been a Regional Support Manager for Practice Plan Group, a leading provider of practice-branded dental plans, for over six years and has 17 plus years’ experience in dentistry including five in practice. Our team of experienced professionals has supported over 1,500 dental practices to transform the profitability of their business through the combination of a well-populated plan and personalised support.
For more information, call 01691 684165 or visit www.practiceplan.co.uk