Louise Bone advises on how a plan provider can help to transform dental practices in Scotland.
Practices in Scotland face some unique challenges when compared to the rest of the UK.
NHS dentistry in Scotland is based on a fee-per-item system, but includes free examinations. So, to try to encourage a patient to consider trading something that is free is often a big hurdle for private and mixed practices. However, there is a big focus on the viability of the long-term Dental Health Care Plan, which in time, will likely see a reduction in funding going forwards.
In addition to this, the prior approval aspect to dentistry is proving a challenge for practices to work with. Approval is taking a lot longer and often rejected, resulting in many patients having to proceed privately for their treatment.
As a result, I think we will start to see a rise in the number of practices looking to implement an element of private dentistry and, therefore, the introduction of membership plans to boost their income.
A membership plan
A dental membership plan can offer many benefits to those looking to make the move to private dentistry.
For the practice, it provides guaranteed income every month throughout the year, which for smaller practices who, at times need to close the practice, is critical. Plans really help to secure the financial viability of the practice. What’s more, choosing a plan provider that believes your plan should be built around your brand strengthens the loyalty between patient and practice.
For patients, having a facility where they can spread the cost of routine dental treatment throughout the year is a real bonus and encourages, without doubt, more regular attendance.
If a practice is already with a plan provider and is considering switching to another, it’s because they’ve begun to question the value they get from their current provider.
When practices decide to switch to DPAS, there are generally two main reasons why: brand and cost savings. Practice owners are often staggered at how much they can actually save in plan admin fees year on year and when you add in the fact that they’d be moving to a plan that’s branded to their own practice, that’s then often the clincher.
For those practices signing up to a plan for the first time, dentists are pre-empting future changes in NHS dentistry and want to safeguard their future.
Taking the leap
Making a change can be an anxious time for the entire dental team and the first step is often the hardest, however the right plan provider can help steer dental teams through the process. The most important thing is that the team feels involved in the change, especially the front desk team; after all, a lot of the conversations about the plan happen there.
I like to think of myself as an extension to the dental team and so am on hand to deliver in-house training sessions to ensure each and every team member feels comfortable with the plan, its benefits and how to talk about it to patients.
During the first few days of onboarding, I’m generally in and around the practice on hand at the drop of a hat to assist with any patient queries.
If you’re unhappy with your current situation, firstly you need to understand what it is that you’re unhappy with and secondly, take advantage of the wealth of support that’s out there. Many practices think they can only talk to us if they intend to move forward with a switch or a conversion from the NHS. Quite the contrary, we’re more than happy to sit down and help you make sense of your current situation.
If a change is right for the practice and that change happens to be with DPAS as the plan provider, great. If not, then we’re happy to have been of assistance.
DPAS is a specialist provider of dental plans for your practice and patients, offering everything the team needs to implement and promote plans effectively. For further information, visit www.dpas.co.uk, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 01747 870910.