7 May 2021  •  Blog, Finance  •  4min read By  • Fliss McCalmont

The five steps to becoming a membership-only practice

Fliss McCalmont discusses the benefits of being a membership-only practice and how to successfully move to that business model.

Why become a membership-only practice?

For obvious reasons, financial stability and security has taken higher priority for many business owners recently.

Having a membership plan ensures a guaranteed regular income, which is especially welcome during times of crisis such as those we have all just experienced. Throughout that time, we saw only two per cent of patients cancelling their plans, so that usual stable income continued to support the practice during those tough months.

Therefore, if all of your patients are on a plan, it not only gives you greater peace of mind but also allows you to structure your business in a way that enables you to more easily plan ahead and have a clear view of your finances.

If you’re an NHS practice moving to private, becoming membership-only from the start can also help to smooth that transition.

That’s exactly what Shrubbery Dental Practice did in 2005, as partner Jessica Crawford-Clarke, explains, ‘We felt it would enable us to provide the best service for the patients to transition from paying NHS fees to a relatively small monthly amount, compared to pay-as-you-go fees or a hefty plan to cover predicted treatment needs. This way patients would benefit from the essential routine care and only pay for what they need when they need it. With the added benefits of our in-house and worldwide emergency assistance.’

Whether you are moving from the NHS or are already private, many people choose to have a plan in their practice for many reasons. Along with the financial security it can bring, patients on a plan are more motivated to attend appointments.

This means that being on a plan helps to deliver more preventive care and improve your patients’ health. It also helps to reduce the white space in your diary as you have less Fail to Attends and fill your patient list with people who are more invested in looking after their dental health.

Making membership your default setting can only increase all of these benefits to your business and the patients you care for.

How to move to membership-only

Making any change to the way you structure your business needs forethought and planning. I asked Jessica to share her advice for anyone thinking of following in their footsteps and becoming membership-only.

These are some of her tips:

  • Be transparent with costs and show patients that there will be a financial saving to help patients feel they are getting a good deal. Patients can see they are saving even without the discount on further treatment and so in effect the plan sells itself.
  • If the team all truly believe it is the right thing for the patient and everyone is ‘on the bus’, it makes it much easier to advise patients as to the benefits.
  • Keep the positive messages at the core of patient communication. Create a culture that patients want to belong to and make sure you deliver.
  • Reinforce the benefits that patients will receive and that the plan makes it easier to take control of their own health as regular payments will make it less likely they will lapse in their routine and preventive care. The added benefit of spreading the costs means their dental care is covered even if unexpected costs crop up.
  • Make sure you do the sums. Carefully set out the ideal plans with regard to time and what is included and get input from your team.

Having a membership plan proved to be a lifeline for many practices during the turmoil of 2020. As we move through 2021, transitioning to an exclusive membership basis could be the key to future-proofing your practice and creating a stronger, more resilient business.

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