16 Jan 2018  •  Blog, NHS  •  4min read By  • Josie Hutchings

Josie Hutchings talks patient membership plans and explains why they are the foundation of private practice.

For any small business, reaching the position of being able to generate predictable, profitable and sustainable income is high on the priority list. Not only does it reduce stress and increase confidence, but it provides a solid platform on which plans for a future can be established. On this basis alone, I frequently get asked by practices how they can achieve this position.

Of course, many dental practices currently work towards this goal through the delivery of an NHS contract alongside their private work. However, some practices approach me and say that all the various ‘hoops’ in the NHS that they are required to jump through often result in the rewards feeling a lot less when compared to the effort they have put in. Unfortunately, in light of the proposed government reforms to the existing NHS contract, this situation is unlikely to change.

All signs are that the future delivery of an NHS contact will result in increased regulation, a heavier administration burden, reduced profit margin and now, potentially a rebidding contract situation which could impact financial lending and goodwill practice values.

With this in mind, some practices are looking for alternative routes to generate a predictable and sustainable income and many request my support to weigh up the advantages of a membership plan as the answer.

A membership plan provides patients with the ability to spread the cost of their maintenance dental care (typically two health-checks and two hygiene visits per year) over twelve monthly payments. Using an established provider such as Practice Plan, the service is simple to set up, but the benefits that it can deliver to both the practice and the patient are many:

Attractive patient benefits

Your membership plan package needs to provide benefits that is very attractive to your patients and ideally it should consist of these three elements, firstly, the cost of your plan – if well thought through – will offer a discount against the pay-as-you-go alternative. Secondly, most practices offer discounts on additional clinical and cosmetic treatments not covered by the plan.

Patient loyalty

A practice branded membership plan with benefits to suit your patient – will give them a sense of belonging – giving them less reason to leave and more reason to recommend your practice to friends and family.

Treatment uptake

When a patient feels more connected to a practice they are more likely to develop a greater degree of trust. This deeper level of trust often means that they are more comfortable discussing dental health concerns or smile aspirations, which can lead to a greater engagement and higher level of treatment take up.

A steady income

Every business has times of year where their ability to generate the usual levels of income are lowered, especially over the holiday season, creating pressure and worry. By building a well populated membership plan will ensure that your income levels remain steady throughout your year. Having such a predictable and sustainable level of income will reduce some of the worries of running your own business and makes planning for the future much easier.

Building practice value

If and when it comes to selling your practice, having a well populated membership plan will help to demonstrate that the practices income is predictable, and if the transition to the new owners managed effectively, sustainable. This level of certainty is much harder to demonstrate if a practice is predominately pay-as-you-go, whereas a membership plan can support the practice value in the eyes of a potential buyer.

As an alternative income route, dental membership plans can be a foundation of a successful private or mixed practice, providing clear benefits to both patient and practice alike.

Josie is a Regional Support Manager at Practice Plan, providing patient membership plans to dental practices, as well as business advice and support for the long term. She years of experience working in the dental industry, supporting dentists to evaluate their options out of the NHS, make a seamless transition from another plan provider to Practice Plan or introduce a dental plan into an established practice.

For further information about options out of the NHS click here.

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