We’ve all heard about SOPs, especially in the run-up to reopening practices after lockdown. But have you stopped to consider SMPs?
That’s your Standard Membership Protocols – SMPs.
Now is the perfect time to think about introducing them into your practice, if you don’t have any already.
Patients stayed on plan in lockdown
Throughout lockdown, patients on a plan proved to be incredibly loyal in continuing to pay their monthly fee – only 3% of Practice Plan patients cancelled their plan in the first three months after practices closed their doors.
As a result, practices with a well-populated plan fared well during lockdown as it helped to mitigate the hardship felt by many others.
As you start returning to practice and implementing changes, now is a good time to consider the way you promote your plan to help increase your membership. It could well stand you in good stead for any future crisis, or indeed the potential second wave of COVID-19.
Questions to ask to help you create your SMPs
Putting in place some SMPs, can help you to do this, and they should be applicable to the whole team.
Some key questions to consider when it comes to creating your SMPs are:
- How you are going to communicate to pay-as-you-go patients to become members?
- How are you going to communicate membership with your NHS patients?
- How are you going to communicate membership with new patients?
- How are you going to make membership the default setting for patients?
As you can see much of these are based around communicating with different types of patient. And that’s because communication is key – patients can’t become members unless they know about the plan and understand its benefits. That comes down to how you tell them about it.
Making your plan the default setting for your practice means explaining to each new patient early on that you operate on a membership basis and proceeding from there. Setting this as an expectation – for the team to carry out and for your patients to understand how you work – can go a long way to encouraging more patients onto your plan.
Growing your plan
Of course, there are other things to consider in creating some SMPs. Below are some observations, based on my 20 years of helping develop large membership-based practices across the country:
Leadership is key – if the leader of the business is passionate and assertive with patients that the best preventive approach and healthcare package for them is to become a member, the patients generally join the plan.
You had me at hello – you rarely get a second chance to make a first impression. The largest membership plan practices all mention membership at reception prior to entering the surgery. Note the word ‘mention’. All too often it’s left solely to the reception team to ‘sell’ membership, but patients want to hear it from the clinician, and in many of the large membership-based practices, the clinician communicates it best.
The team must believe – when did you last have a long chat about membership with the team? By which I mean, have an internal team session, iron out any problems, talk about what works, what used to work, why we stopped doing that, what could we do, etc. The best ideas are those that you believe in, together as a team.
People buy from people – you can have the best designed brochure and point-of-sale material in the world, but people buy from people. Marketing literature is there to back up the message. Keep it simple, believe in it and remember 80% of any face-to-face communication will always be told by your body language and tone of voice. If you believe in it the patient can tell!
The handover is the key – the final piece of the jigsaw; after you’ve discussed the membership plan with the patient, walk them back to reception. It is a lovely caring approach and it’s a way of explaining to your reception team that Mr Jones needs to get signed up as a member.
If you do not ask the answer will always be no – it’s something that many people shy away from in fear of rejection. But it’s a fact of life, if you don’t ask you will never progress.
A well-populated plan has proved to be a good foundation for navigating one of the toughest times ever faced by the dental profession. The ideas above can help you to grow your plan and provide you with that extra security in both good times, and bad.
About Gary Nelson
Gary Nelson is an Area Manager with Practice Plan, the UK’s leading provider of practice-branded patient membership plans. Gary has successfully run his own business for ten years prior to joining the team at Practice Plan.
If you’re looking for more independence from the NHS or want to transform the profitability of your business through the combination of a well-populated plan and personalised support, call 01691 684165 or visit practiceplan.co.uk