Featured Article - Patient Financing: Why Dentists Shouldn't Be Afraid To Use The F* Word
October 2, 2014
by Michael Garrity
Financing is often considered a dirty word that’s more suited for the car dealership than the dentist’s office. However, new forms of customer financing now make it possible to bring the advantages of flexible loan programs to dental work.
Financing works by breaking down a major expense, such as Invisalign, root canals, and crowns/bridges, into manageable monthly payments. With low to no interest rates and no prepayment penalties, these programs offer a consumer-friendly alternative to maxing out a credit card in order to pay for a necessary treatment. The benefits of financing touch everyone involved: dentists, patients, office managers, and patient care or billing coordinators.
Flexible financing helps more patients get the care they need
It’s no secret that financing a dental treatment can be difficult for some patients. In fact, financing concerns are the primary reason why patients delay treatment or choose a less optimal treatment option. For example, spending $4,000 on cosmetic work may seem out of reach for most patients, but what if that lump sum was broken down into payments of $80 per month. The procedure suddenly becomes realistic.
In short, financing helps patients afford the care they need when they need it. It removes the question “Can I afford this now?” from the decision to seek treatment. As a result, dentists can put smiles on more people’s faces, improving their health, and boosting their self-confidence.
What works on the sales floor can work in the dental office
Retailers selling big-ticket items have long understood that one of the best ways to address customers’ budget concerns is to offer financing that allows for an affordable monthly payment. From a furniture store to a home contractor, financing plans encourage customers to buy more, and more often.
Financing options can have the same impact on a dental practice’s bottom line – boosting sales and reducing cancellations caused by second thoughts drive by their budget. By giving patients more flexibility on payment options and better rates than the typical credit card, financing plans increase patient satisfaction and lead to more referrals.
Easier administration for the patient care or billing coordinator
A third party financing service reduces work for the administrative staff. When customers pay by check or a dental practice offers its own installment plan the practice is responsible for managing the collections process for any delinquent accounts. Billing coordinators are put in the uncomfortable position of being a collections agent, having to call and send notices week after week. A third party financing program eliminates these billing headaches and allows the practice to be paid upfront by the financing partner.
How to present financing in a non-financing environment
Since offering financing programs is relatively uncharted territory in dental practices, most dentists are not familiar with how to implement these programs in their business. The most effective rollout strategy is to layer financing into the existing billing process. Have the billing coordinator or patient care coordinator introduce financing in with the normal payment discussion, and always present the lowest monthly payment available for any treatment.
Patients will rarely initiate the topic of financing themselves, so administrative staff should be prepared to lead the discussion. Brochures should be on hand to provide all the details of the financing program. In addition, boost awareness of the program by adding signage to the front desk that advertises the financing options (such as “0% Financing Available: Ask Us How”).
Keep in mind that patients across all financial backgrounds will be interested in taking advantage of low or no-interest credit options. For this reason, it’s important to introduce financing options with every payment conversation, instead of waiting until a patient expresses a concern about price.
Dentists are usually more comfortable caring for their patients, than giving the “hard sell”. However, the bottom line is that offering patient-friendly financing options ensures that more patients get the healthy smiles they deserve. What’s good for patients is good for the practice after all. Give patients more ways to pay, and they’ll bring their business back time and again.
By: Michael Garrity
Michael Garrity is a 15-year veteran of the financial technology industry, and the CEO and co-founder of Financeit <www.financeit.io>, a platform that enables small business to offer consumer-financing anytime, anywhere. You can find him on Twitter @mgarrity.