Jayne Gibson talks about the benefits of ‘prescribing’ your membership plan to patients and shares how one practice manages this approach…
With many practices seeking to introduce a membership plan or increase the number of their members, now seems a good time to consider the idea of ‘prescribing’ your plan.
This is one of the many effects of COVID-19 on dentistry: more and more people are turning to membership plans as a way of minimising their financial vulnerability and protecting their income.
We all knew that having a plan in place provides a reliable monthly income before COVID-19 came along. But what the pandemic proved was that even in extraordinary times of crisis, it will still continue to provide you with financial stability as the vast majority of patients continued to pay their monthly membership fee during lockdown.
And of course, the more members you have, the more of a buffer you have to protect your financial stability.
How Quay Dental do it
One of the ways you can make sure your practice’s plan is robust and keep attracting new members is by ‘prescribing’ it to your patients. By which I mean, the plan is presented to the patient by the dentist who ‘prescribes’ it based on health reasons.
A practice that takes this kind of approach is Quay Dental on the Isle of Man. Andrew Jowett, Clinical Director and Lead Dentist at the practice, described his approach to me.
He said, ‘When the dentist sees a new patient, we fill in a 16-point questionnaire. Based on the answers to that, we talk about the risks of certain dental problems like decay and gum health and come up with a Red, Amber or Green rating for the patient.
‘That rating determines how often the patient needs to see a hygienist and dentist, and that then determines the level of plan we recommend.’
A joint agreement about the level of plan
Andrew believes that the level of plan being suggested by the practice, rather than chosen by the patient, is one of the key steps to take when ‘prescribing’ your plan to increase your membership numbers.
He added, ‘Before we moved to this approach, we found that we would tell the patients about the different levels of plan we offer and they would pick the one they wanted – which was not necessarily the most appropriate one for them.
‘We took the different levels of plan off all of our marketing literature and began simply promoting that we offer a plan.
‘The appropriate level of plan is then ‘prescribed’ to the patient following the questionnaire and a discussion about what the results of that mean. It is a joint agreement based on the clinical information and we repeat the questionnaire annually so we can adjust what plan the patient is on accordingly.’
Moving to membership-only
Quay Dental began ‘prescribing’ the plan in 2019 as they felt it was the ideal approach to patient care and beneficial for their patients’ dental health.
Before COVID-19, the practice was also considering moving to a membership-only model, now post-lockdown they are pressing ahead with the change.
Andrew said, ‘The health benefits for patients of being on a plan, plus the benefits for us of having everyone attending regularly means that membership-only is the ideal scenario.
‘We decided we didn’t want to open the doors to everybody and that we would rather have an exclusive list of registered patients. We’re confident that we have a good list of patients and that we will get the right number of patients – and also the right type of patients who will be happy to join the plan.’
Increasing your plan members and taking a ‘prescription’ approach is a model for running your practice that can help to provide financial security. This is something that can be taken for granted during normal times, but recent events have cast a bright, if harsh, light on just how important it is.
Andrew graduated from the University of Dundee in 1997 and is now the Clinical Director and Lead Dentist at Quay Dental on the Isle of Man.
Jayne Gibson has been a Regional Support Manager at Practice Plan for 10 years and has 15 years’ experience in the dental industry. Practice Plan is the UK’s leading provider of practice-branded patient membership plans, partnering with over 1,500 dental practices and offering a wide range of business support services.