Dental Memberships – Six Best Practices
(Part 3 in a 3-part series)
Dental memberships are like other membership programs where members pay fees for services (i.e. dental care) and, in most situations, receive additional discounts for purchases through the membership. For example, Amazon Prime members receive free shipping and an additional percentage off storewide sales at Whole Foods.
Once you decide that an in-office membership is best for your office, there are a series of best practices to implement to ensure your membership is a success.
“An hour of planning will save you 10 hours of doing,”1 helping you get your membership off on the right foot and continue to run well for you, your patients, and your practice.
1. Establish Clear Ownership of the Membership Plan
Meet with your dentist to decide if you would like to implement an in-office dental membership in your practice. Identify who will take the lead. The Office Manager or an enthusiastic, reliable team member who is ready for a challenging project are good choices. If someone other than the manager is adding this to their job responsibilities, consider additional compensation for the extra work. If you decide to delegate this project, the office manager or dentist should provide oversite and guidance.
2. Define the Plan
Whether you create your own membership plan or use a third-party company, customize your plan to meet the needs of your patients and your practice. You might consider the following plans that we offer in our practice:
- New Patient
Determine what services you will include in each plan, assemble your service codes and fees, and then establish the fees you will charge for each plan. Next, decide what discount or savings percentage members will receive for additional items not covered in the preventive part of the plan. Identify what is included in the plan and what is not. We offer members savings on all services not included in the plan except products because our product fees are already very close to our cost.
3. Establish Processes
Set up a process for how to establish your membership within your patient management system (PMS). Your PMS may offer resources to help. Although creating your own plan can be done and is not complicated, there are many details you must consider (see part 2 in this series). Our PMS is Eaglesoft, and our membership plan is administered by Kleer. During our onboarding, we received a detailed guide written by Andre Shirdan, from the CREW Process2, which was very helpful in setting up every aspect of our membership plan within our PMS.
Whether you build your own plan or use a third party, decide if you will offer monthly or only annual membership payments. Although an annual plan is slightly easier to manage, reducing barriers to member enrollment was a factor, so we also offer monthly payments. If implementing your own plan, decide how memberships will be renewed, which will require ongoing administrative follow up.
Even after explaining to patients, we often get calls on the 4th month of their monthly automatic payments asking about the charge on their credit card. We remind them that they signed up for the monthly membership and review with them the details of their payment agreement. Patients on our plans also receive an automatic email 45 days before their annual renewal. Sometimes patients forget that their memberships are automatically renewed. Great communication with patients helps to solve some of these issues.
4. Team Communication and Training
Schedule dedicated team meetings with ample time to share the details of how the plan works, how patients and the team will benefit from a membership plan, and the importance of a membership plan to your practice. Rehearse communication skills and role-playing as well as provide plenty of time for questions and answers. If you are leading the implementation of the membership plan, utilize your administrative team to assist in training the rest of the team since they will be communicating and enrolling patients. This will help to polish their communication skills before rolling out the plan to the first patients.
The entire team should be comfortable explaining the plan generally, and the Administrative Team specifically. Scripts can be helpful until the team develops their own style consistent with the practice objectives.
The Administrative Team ought to be able to discuss the benefits of belonging to your dental membership, the various plans you offer, how plans are selected for each patient, and the enrollment details. If patients have existing dental insurance benefits policies, it is helpful if the Administrative Team can compare the membership plan benefits with the patient’s dental insurance benefits. They will need a good working knowledge of both. It is extremely valuable to be able to provide the patient with an estimate of the amount the dental insurance benefit will assist with (i.e., including the patient’s deductible, patient portion, any maximums, percentage of insurance UCR compared to your UCR, exclusions, etc.). The patient can then accurately compare your in-office plan with their dental insurance benefits. Although it takes time, it can be very effective to ask patients, who are having trouble deciding, to bring in their paystubs or share with you the cost of their premiums. This additional level of customer service can truly benefit the patient and the practice.
The success of the membership plan heavily depends on the ability of the administrative team to communicate with patients the details, costs, and benefits of both your practice membership plan and, if applicable, the patient’s dental insurance.
Depending on your state laws, patient memberships cannot be used in conjunction with dental insurance plans. Check with your state insurance laws. Located in California, we ensure everyone knows that our membership is NOT insurance but an in-office dental membership.
Use morning huddles to share smaller bits of information and updates about the membership plan and team meetings for in-depth trainings. Consider implementing an employee membership plan-specific bonus for new sign-ups and communicate the details during your team meetings.
Begin assembling your marketing materials prior to your training so you can use them with your team. Consider using email, text messaging, social media, your website, and physical brochures that you can hand out in your office as part of your marketing plan. And don’t forget, the best marketing is face-to-face verbal communication. We emailed our entire patient population when we rolled out our membership plan and invited them to share with family and friends. Strategically place brochures at each administrative desk. Target your uninsured patients to provide them with an alternative to traditional individual dental benefits plans.
Once you have everything set up in your PMS, trained your team, and marketing materials are ready to distribute, JUST DO IT! When you sign up your first patient, you will wonder why you waited to implement a membership plan in your practice.
For a successful in-office dental membership plan, follow these best practices. Finally, make sure to celebrate with your team when your first member enrolls because you and your doctor will be happy with the results that will follow!
Please email me to request a copy of Dr. Jones’ In-Office Membership Communication template.
|Dental Insurance Benefits||In-Office Membership Plan (dependent upon how you set up your plan)|
|Preventative services may include a deductible and patient portion||Preventative services are included in the cost of the plan – NO additional fees for cleaning, exams, and routine x-rays|
|Annual Maximum||No Annual Maximum – the patient decides how much or how little proposed treatment they accept and still receive a courtesy percentage adjustment for being a valued member|
|Sometimes waiting periods||NO waiting periods|
|Prior Authorizations||NO Prior Authorizations necessary; you can fill your doctor’s schedule just as soon as the patient is ready to move forward|
- Dental Memberships Part 1 – 3 Reasons – One Perspective
- Dental Memberships Part 2 – DIY or Third-Party?
About the Author
Debbie Jones, RN MN, MAADOM, is the Practice Administrator for her husband Mike Jones’ General Dental Practice in Newport Beach, CA. Debbie has been an AADOM member since 2018, and in 2021 she earned her Fellowship (FAADOM) designation. In 2022 Debbie completed the requirements and successfully received her Mastership (MAADOM) designation. She is currently enrolled in the diplomate program and is on track to receive her DAADOM designation at the 2023 conference. Debbie loves learning and has attended every AADOM conference since she first joined the association in 2018.