How to Keep Production Up Despite Inflation
The news is everywhere: the inflation rate is hitting record highs. No doubt, you’ve seen the impact of this on the cost of your supplies and perhaps even your rent. Maybe your lab is charging more, or your team is asking for raises too. It’s tough out there!
Inflation is having an undeniable impact on your patients as well. Depending on the demographic you serve, your patients may already be deciding whether they want to buy gas or groceries this week. And, as we all know, when people can’t afford the basics, their dental care tends to suffer. Many even forego preventative visits.
You can maintain production levels in spite of the economy, though. These tips will help.
Focus on Education
You don’t have to “sell” your services to get patients to come in. The more they understand things, the more likely they are to come in on their own.
Teach patients about their insurance.
Did you know that two-thirds of patients don’t know their preventative treatment is usually covered according to Cigna research? Simply informing patients that they have “free” treatment available can help your practice boost production at no cost to them. The same study shows that most people who haven’t been in for a year say they’re not coming in because they think their exam will now cost them more now. Again, all you have to do to break down the barrier is tell them that their exam is covered and won’t cost them more.
Whenever possible, teach them how to maximize their insurance benefits too. Talk to them about splitting treatment up between benefit years or coordinating benefits. Make this standard protocol in your treatment planning.
Discuss preventative care needs.
Unless you’ve taken the time to educate patients on the progression of periodontal disease, they probably aren’t going to know. They may also not know if they’re at elevated risk by being a smoker, diabetic, or for other reasons.
These are great topics to include in your practice newsletter. If you’re using ThriveCloud, you already have access to a powerful email marketing tool with a newsletter template. Also, discuss preventative care during visits. You can use the patient’s perio chart to demonstrate concerns and even send patients a copy via their portal. Show them the included patient education videos to elevate their understanding too.
Use educational aids to explain care needs.
If you tell patients they need a “small filling,” that will be their takeaway. It’s going to be prioritized well below everything else on their list. Instead of saying “You need a small filling,” try saying, “We want to correct this before it gets larger.” Again, you can use the patient’s chart to demonstrate and pull up x-rays or intraoral camera photos. When they can see the issue with their own eyes, they’re more likely to take action. Leverage patient education videos whenever possible here too.
Ensure Costs Are Clear
Again, statistically speaking, most people don’t understand their insurance benefits. They often fear the worst and don’t know what their plan will pick up. Make sure you give patients a full breakdown of costs, including their portion, the insurance portion if applicable, and any discounts they’re receiving. This is legally required in some cases, but it’s a good habit to get into regardless.
Continue including cosmetic and optional treatments in your treatment plans as well. Even though many will not have a budget to address these things now, some will. Furthermore, it plants the seed in their minds. If you’re consistently including these options and reminding patients that they’re there, they will come back to you later for the treatment if they want it.
Go Over Ways to Save
If lower-cost alternatives are available, ensure patients are aware of their choices. Not only will this help them complete treatment if they’re on a budget, but it goes a long way toward case acceptance in general. Simply covering the options shows the patient that you care about their health above all else. Highlighting insurance coverage and discounts helps here too.
If your practice accepts discount plans, you may also want to keep literature about plans patients can sign up for available. Many offices now offer in-house discounts as well, such as 15 percent off for cash pay patients or 25 percent off for seniors. If you aren’t already doing something like this, it’s worth exploring.
Discuss Payment Options
Just a quarter of patients can afford to pay a $400 dental bill in full. It’s important to have payment solutions ready for larger treatment plans and be prepared to help patients clear balances when insurance leaves them with an unexpected balance. Some practices handle this totally in-house and simply bill the patient a portion of the balance each month. Others accept third-party payment plans or healthcare-specific credit cards/ short-term loans.
Lastly, it’s helpful to ask patients about other payment sources they may have, such as secondary insurance and healthcare savings accounts. Patients routinely set these up for their medical bills, but they can usually be used to cover their dental care needs too.
Be mindful when discussing payment options, though. People tend to be more sensitive about money when they’re already stretched thin and stressed. Any options you present should be offered from a helpful place in a way that demonstrates you’re genuinely concerned.
Continue Marketing Your Practice
Marketing budgets are often the first to get slashed when money is tight. It’s an expense that many practices feel they can’t keep up with. But, consider this: practices lose about 17 percent of patients every year. If you aren’t replacing those patients, you will not maintain production levels, let alone grow. Moreover, you get your money back and then some when you market effectively. Email marketing, for example, gives you $36 for each dollar you spend according to Constant Contact.
A few inflation-proof ways to market your dental practice include:
- Email Promotions: Come up with a timely special. For example, people in the job market may respond to whitening offers right now because their smile impacts how they’re viewed during an interview. Again, ThriveCloud comes with mass email marketing included. You can use the promotional template that’s already developed for you or design your own and literally get an email blast out to all your patients within minutes.
- Text Promotions: Use text messaging to reach your patients. One idea that works right now is to offer a limited number of free at-home whitening kits to people who respond to your text and come in for a preventative visit. For example, ask patients to text back a word such as “BRIGHTER” for a chance to win. ThriveCloud includes text messaging, so you don’t need any special equipment or services if you already use the software.
- Referral Campaigns: Ask your current patients to refer their friends. Many practices offer an incentive for this, such as cash, gift cards, or bill credits. Some states frown on incentivized referrals (hello, California!), so check your local guidelines before offering a reward. Consider promoting your referral program via text and email too.
- Online Reviews: Getting lots of positive reviews boosts your search engine optimization (SEO), so more prospective patients find you when they search online. Nearly nine in ten read online reviews before booking with your practice too. That means one of the most effective ways to increase new patient appointments is to get more glowing reviews online. Run a campaign to encourage your current patients to leave reviews. If you’re using ThriveCloud, use the included Online Reviews tool to automatically ask patients for reviews after a visit and monitor your profiles.
Schedule for Production
You may not be able to do crowns and implants all day, but you can structure your days in a way that makes the most of your time. Use features like schedule blocks to create a template for your perfect day. Include spaces for high-production treatments, so you get the right balance of work each day. Set production goals and strive to meet them daily too. If you’re using ThriveCloud, check out ThriveCloud University in the software for detailed instructions.
Keep the Team Involved
Success is a team effort. Ensure everyone knows how your schedule and ideal days work, what your goals are, and how to identify production opportunities, such as patients due for x-rays and fluoride at their upcoming visits. Share the practice goals with them and teach them how they, in their specific role, can help you reach them. Hold a daily team huddle. The Huddle feature in ThriveCloud will help guide your conversation.
Strengthen Your Practice Against Inflation with the Right Dental Software
You can apply most of the techniques outlined here with the tools and features included in ThriveCloud. If you’re already using ThriveCloud and need assistance, check out the ThriveCloud University video tutorials or reach out to support. If you’d like to learn more about ThriveCloud or want to see it in action, request a complimentary demo.