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5 Reasons Your Dental Practice Needs an In-House Membership Program

Posted December 19, 2019

Jeff Cole

Dental practices are increasingly feeling the pressure of declining reimbursement rates on their bottom line.  According to a survey by Bankers Healthcare Group, nearly three-quarters of dentists state declining reimbursement rates as their top industry concern. 

Forward-thinking dental practices are protecting themselves by offering in-house membership plans directly to their patients.  Similar to loyalty programs such as Costco or Amazon Prime, patients pay a monthly or annual subscription fee directly to your practice and, in return, receive standard preventive care treatments and discounts on other procedure categories. 

In today’s reimbursement environment, providing in-house membership plans is no longer a “nice-to-have”, but a “must-have” for growth-oriented practices.  In this article, we highlight the top 5 reasons why your practice needs an in-house membership program today.

1. Decrease Reliance on Dental Insurance

According to a study by Morgan Stanley, dental reimbursement rates across the U.S. are expected to decline by 8.7% for solo practitioners in 2019.  Lower reimbursement rates mean dentists take home less income.  In addition, practices spend countless hours and resources filing claims and chasing down payments. 

Membership plans erase the insurance middleman and connect your practice directly with your patients.  Patients receive simple and comprehensive coverage.

With an in-office membership program, patients pay a subscription fee to your practice for preventive care.  When the member accepts additional treatment not included with their membership plan, they act like a standard fee-for-service patient and compensate your practice directly.  There are no claims to file or insurance companies dictating your pricing. 

The larger your share of in-house members versus PPO patients, the more control you have over your practice. 

2. Earn Subscription Revenue

Subscription fees collected from your members can add-up fast, providing your practice with profitable, recurring revenue. 

According to the Pearly Patient Preferences Study, uninsured adults will pay an average for $25.19 per month, or $302.28 per year, for an in-house dental membership plan that covers preventive care.  Therefore, if you have 500 patients in your membership program, for example, your practice would generate over $150,000 per year in recurring revenue or over $12,000 per month. 

Membership plans, in effect, turn your hygiene department into a profitable subscription business with recurring revenue you can rely on to smooth out down months.  While subscription pricing and member volume vary based on your office location and your practice’s success at acquiring members, the impact a successful program can have on your top and bottom line is obvious. 

3. Improve Patient Loyalty 

Membership equals loyalty.  Patients join your membership program and are committing to receive regular treatment from your practice.  In addition, they are more likely to accept treatment recommendations, which ultimately increases revenue per patient. 

This “membership effect” is evident across many industries outside of dentistry.  For example, Amazon Prime members spend nearly twice as much as non-Prime Amazon customers because they shop on the site twice as often, according to a CIRP report.

In-house dental membership plan patients are no different – they book more appointments and accept more treatment.    

4. Engage New Patients

Attracting new patients to your practice is critical to sustained growth and membership plans offer an opportunity to reach new demographic groups in your area. 

According to the ADA, nearly 1 in 3 adults in the United States have no form of dental benefits coverage.  The lack of dental benefits is especially acute with retiring Baby Boomers losing employer-sponsored benefits and Millennials working in the gig economy.  With over 10,000 Baby Boomers retiring each day and an increasing percentage of the population working as independent contractors for companies like Uber and DoorDash, your practice cannot afford to ignore these key groups.

Instead of the standard “$99 New Patient Special”, membership plans allow your practice to offer a comprehensive and affordable solution to uninsured patients.  It’s a win-win for both patient and practice.

5. Boost Practice Value

Recurring revenue, improved patient loyalty, and increased revenue per patient all contribute positively to the value of your practice when you decide to sell.  Reimbursement rates are unlikely to improve any time soon and offering an in-house membership program is critical for long-term practice success.

Conclusion

Launching and growing a profitable membership program is easy and can transform the economics for any dental practice. 

If you follow best practices such as automating billing and management with third-party software and ensuring your office staff is trained on the value proposition, your practice can rapidly grow an in-house membership program that delivers value to your patients and your practice’s bottom line.


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