Oral Health Group

Dental Tourism: An Untapped Revenue Opportunity

September 16, 2014
by Kahaliah Richards

According to Patients Beyond Borders, about 1.2 million Americans will travel abroad for health and dental care in 2014. Commonly called “dental tourism,” the news media is promoting how patients can save money on dental work done in Mexico and other foreign countries—where costs for even the most complex procedures are up to two-thirds cheaper than those performed in the United States.

While dentists may assume that only the uninsured go abroad, research shows that the average dental tourist is middle class and has dental insurance. This means there is an opportunity for U.S. dentists to capitalize on the dental-tourism trend—if they can convince would-be travelers to get treated locally, instead. We surveyed a random sample of 1,155 U.S. residents to find out which patients are most likely to travel for dental care, and what might cause them to reconsider.

Cost Is Primary Concern About Getting Dental Treatment

Before patients even consider leaving the U.S., what are their primary concerns when deciding whether or not to undergo dental treatment? With average procedure prices often reaching into the thousands of dollars, it’s not surprising that cost of treatment is the leading concern for dental patients (41 percent).

Patient Concerns About Getting Dental Treatment dental-treatment-concerns

Not having adequate time for treatment and recovery (16 percent) and concerns about pain or fear of dentists (9 percent) are significantly less influential factors for our sample.

Interestingly, 35 percent of patients responded that none of the concerns we provided were factors for them when deciding whether or not to undergo dental procedures. While some patients in this category may simply have no concerns about dental treatment, others may be experiencing a breakdown in dentist-patient communication.

Dr. Marty Jablow, a practicing dentist in Woodbridge, New Jersey and a dental technology consultant, advises that not understanding their condition, the prescribed treatment or the potential consequences of not getting treatment may contribute to patient reservations about dental care.

As Dr. Jablow succinctly explains: “If [patients] don’t understand the problem, [they] will not understand the solution.”

Dr. Roger Levin, founder and CEO of dental consulting firm Levin Group INC, adds that dental practitioners often stick to the technical explanation behind the recommended procedures, and fail to communicate the benefits that patients will experience after treatment. By addressing patient concerns in advance and clearly communicating conditions, treatment plans and benefits, dentists can help assure patients that even if dental care is expensive, it is a worthwhile investment.

Most Insured Patients Would Not Seek Cheaper Care Abroad

Although a majority of patients responded that cost was their greatest concern, our survey showed that only 17 percent of respondents who had dental insurance would be interested in leaving the U.S. for dental care if the cost of a given treatment was cheaper abroad than at home. (Eighteen percent of the overall sample reported that they did not have dental insurance, and thus were excluded from this chart).

Insured Americans’ Interest in Seeking Cheaper Dental Care Abroad interest-in-dental-tourism

Though 17 percent is not a large number, it’s not insignificant—and according to Dr. Levin, the number of Americans willing to travel for dental care will likely increase due to the rise in quality of dental work done abroad as well as the reach of the Internet, through which practices can market to patients thousands of miles away. With the increasing amount of targeted advertising, he notes, having dental work done abroad may soon enjoy the global appeal of getting plastic surgery abroad.

Dr. Kyle Stanley of Helm | Nejad | Stanley—Dentistry in Beverly Hills, California, has identified an additional reason why some patients get dental work done abroad. Some of his foreign-born patients have returned to their home countries for major treatments due to the sense of loyalty and pride they feel when being treated by a dentist in their country of origin.

For American dentists, the 17 percent of respondents who expressed an interest in dental work abroad represent a growing trend that should be closely monitored. Since the average dental tourist does have insurance and the funds to afford treatment, it falls to dentists to persuade patients that the long-term value of American dental care is superior to cheaper care abroad. We found that this opportunity is greater for dentists located in certain parts of the U.S.

Patients in Western U.S. Most Likely to Go Abroad

According to our survey, more Americans residing in western states—Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Montana, New Mexico, Nevada, Oregon, Utah, Washington and Wyoming—would be willing to get dental treatment outside of the country if the cost was cheaper than care in the U.S. (25 percent).

Insured Americans Willing to Travel Abroad for Cheaper Dental Care dental-tourism-by-region

Note: No data for Idaho, Hawaii, Maryland and Maine

Dr. Stanley indicated that increased interest in the southwest may be largely due to its proximity to Mexico. Being closer to a location known for inexpensive dental work would mean less time and money spent traveling to and from the dentist’s office. And for potential dental tourists in the northwestern states, proximity to Thailand, Malaysia or the Philippines—where dental treatment has also proven less expensive—could be a factor.

Least likely to be interested in dental tourism are patients in the northeast region, including residents of Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, Delaware, New Jersey and New York, where just 8 percent of respondents would be willing to travel abroad for dental care. Respondents in the Midwest and the South weren’t far behind, at 10 percent each.

Health Risks Would Most Persuade Patients to Get Care in U.S.

When we asked our sample what would convince them not to travel abroad for dental care if the cost of a given treatment was lower there, 56 percent said there was nothing that would persuade them. This doesn’t necessarily indicate that these patients are unreachable—however, the risks of dental tourism may need to be reframed to help patients see how they could personally be impacted.

Of those who said they could be persuaded, a majority of patients (39 percent) indicated that they would be most likely to reconsider more expensive care in the U.S. if they were informed about the health risks associated with dental care abroad….(more)

To continue reading this story, please visit: http://profitable-practice.softwareadvice.com/dental-tourism-an-untapped-revenue-opportunity-0914/

by Kathleen Irwin
SOURCED: The Profitable Practice

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