Dentistry has long been a dynamic industry defined by ever-evolving technologies and trends. Managing to stay abreast with the latest treatments, technologies and practice management ideologies can be a full-time job. All too often the adoption of new technologies, designed to increase efficiency and to simplify processes for your practice, seem to have the opposite effect, complicating and frustrating both staff and management alike. The time invested learning and relearning new software is time not spent focused on your patients’ health and needs. It’s understandable that offices would try to avoid reinventing the wheel when it comes to dealing with the critical but complex process of receiving payment for services rendered. However, this is an area of your business where particular attention to detail can pay dividends not only to your bottom line but also to your patients’ health.
Providing patients with the highest standard of care is a goal to which all offices aspire. It is a dynamic process which requires a focus on maintaining up-to-date knowledge of new treatments and procedures, as well as technological innovations in order to best diagnose, treat and manage your patients’ oral health. This is all done in an effort to present patients with the best possible treatment options, all tailored to suit each patient’s individual needs. When it comes to billing, however, how do we ensure the same level of diligence in providing patients with the best available options? Appreciating the significance of the financial aspect of treatments in your practice is pivotal, as patients are often forced to base their treatment decisions on cost concerns over health concerns. Considering everything we now know regarding the links between oral health and overall health, it is imperative that patient expenditures become considered as an equal aspect in a holistic approach to patients’ overall wellness. What alternatives are there for the dental office, beside the plethora of private insurance coverage (or lack thereof) and patients paying out of pocket?
For patients faced with this dilemma, the answer seems to be simple enough. The best option for making large expenditures is to pay in installments. Offering payment plans is, of course, not altogether a new concept and many dentists do in fact offer them in-house. Though many offices have had success in offering such programs to their patients, others are unwilling to take on the financial risk, the administrative burden or the chance on souring hard-earned patient relationships. For these offices, there is another way to offer their patients a payment plan while avoiding all of the risks and extra workload. It’s called third party patient financing.
The outsourcing of payment plans effectively removes the inherent financial risk as well as the associated administrative costs, both in time and expense to the dental office. These offices can then maintain a patient relationship that is centered on health outcomes rather than financial circumstances. Third-party patient financing abets the transition toward a health partnership, where the patient is actively investing in their own health via the guidance of your dental health team. This paradigm shift has the power to be monumental in its effects both to patient oral health and dental practice financial health.
Offering a financing option both encourages and enables patients to consider superior, yet often more expensive, treatment options which can be regarded by patients as aesthetically motivated. These treatment options, which are commonly better suited to the patients’ condition and desired outcomes, are quickly dismissed because of perceived cost constraints. Providing the option of making low monthly payments effectively removes those barriers and eases the initial ‘sticker shock’, allowing patients the time to fully consider the overall benefits of these procedures. Patients deserve the opportunity to access the best possible treatments providing the greatest overall benefits to their health, and need not be forced into choosing sub-optimal treatments due to cost concerns.
Outsourcing payment plans through third-party financing companies is a cost-effective and efficient means of managing and reducing your office’s account receivables. Patient financing increases treatment acceptance and encourages existing patients into embracing more expensive treatment options. As a marketing tool, it can increase your patient base by attracting more cost-conscious clientele by displaying your office’s openness to work within their financial restraints.
Third-party payment plans can also foster stronger patient relationships with your office, by providing your office and staff arm’s length distance in having to discuss awkward matters in relation to patients’ personal finances. Patient financing programs can be implemented into your existing business operations quickly and easily with minimal effort or investment in terms of cost outlays or time consumed by staff training.
Operating a successful dental practice in today’s ultra-competitive economic climate requires so much more business acumen and insight than the neighborhood dentists of yesteryear were ever required to possess. Today’s successful dental practice is one which is mindful of new technologies and invests readily and intelligently. It recognizes the importance of maintaining a student mentality and mastering new techniques, while keeping an eye on emerging trends and procedures. The most successful practices will be the ones which actively seek opportunities to innovate and streamline their operations. Adopting a patient financing option in your practice only represents a small cog in the very complex wheel of your business, but it is one that reflects a perspective of patient health, which encompasses much more than just what is revealed in the exam room. Dental practices who embrace the paradigm that overall patient health extends past the mouth will be the ones who will reap the rewards.
About the Author
Ross Dow is a proud new father and avid baseball fan who has been engaged in marketing patient financing programs in Canada for the past five years, specializing in client relations for iFinance Canada. For information on iFinance Canada’s programs please visit www.ifinancecanada.com.