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Understanding Subscription-Based Dentistry

September 19, 2019

By offering dental plans paid on a monthly or yearly basis, dentists are attracting and retaining patients who might otherwise forego their dental care. A subscription-based model can potentially enhance profitability, lower demands on front office staff, and free-up dental practices to compete more effectively.

How Subscriptions Work

Typically, a dentist will design a plan that gives patients access to regular diagnostic checkups and preventative care treatments. To arrive at a fair subscription price, practices will often figure out their annual costs for checkups and X-rays and divide that grand total by 12 (the number of months in a year).They may also incorporate a menu of fixed prices for more complicated procedures such as crown work or dental surgery.

Since the dentist is paid directly, the practice usually retains more revenue. Subscription plans have the potential to increase the value of a dental practice by as much as 100 percent. That may enable them to offer subscribers attractive discounts on procedures. Then patients sign up as subscription program members, for a fixed fee paid monthly or yearly, and make appointments whenever they feel they are needed.

Why Patients Like the Concept

As consumers, patients are accustomed to paying monthly bills, so the concept of a subscription plan is comfortable and familiar. It is also easy for them to budget, because costs are predictably and transparently disclosed, up front. Patients tend to utilize their subscriptions, which boosts patient retention while it helps ensure that patients are more proactive about their dental health. By contrast, approximately 75 percent of patients who have dental insurance don’t use it and don’t even go the dentist once a year.

Dental Insurance is Inadequate

The majority of patients who have and use insurance find that the insurance premiums and copays are greater than the value of the annual coverage received. Some also complain that they cannot visit an out-of-network dentist. That discourages many consumers from investing in dental insurance, leaving nearly half of all Americans without private dental coverage. But when they have access to subscription-based dentistry they can easily see a tangible return. They also tend to engage with the dentist more frequently, for enhanced rapport and less patient attrition.

Cash Flow and Profitability

Dentists benefit because they can reliably calculate the number of subscribers they have, to forecast revenue. That makes for better financial planning. But this approach also eliminates the time-consuming process of submitting paperwork to insurance companies and then waiting to get paid. That helps to free-up front office staff to take care of patients, while it speeds up payment. It shortens the revenue cycle and improves cash flow.

Automated Subscription Solutions

To fully leverage the benefits of a subscription approach, it helps to automate the system. With the right technological platform, it is easy to track subscriptions, invoice in a timely fashion, and expedite billing and collections. Patients can be offered recurring billing, so that once they sign-up for a dental subscription their payments will be automatically managed and processed. That reduces the friction of having to repeatedly ask them for payments. They can also be provided with a secure, HIPAA-and PCI compliant portal to conveniently manage their account, view their dental records, and schedule their own appointments.