Frictionless Financing: How DSOs are improving the bottom line and patients' access to optimal care

Dental service organizations are faced with a range of significant challenges. Retaining patients, growing revenue while patients are spending less, and managing staff shortages and turnover to name a few.

To deliver optimal patient care and improve their financial position, many leading DSOs are turning to dental discount plans and third-party financing. Becker’s Healthcare recently spoke with Mrs. Catlin Zuniga, Vice President of Sales at Wellfit, to learn more about the challenges DSOs face and the benefits patient financing options offer.

Every patient deserves optimal dental care

Comprehensive dental treatment plans are created based on each patient’s unique needs. Unfortunately, not every patient has the financial ability to move forward with these optimal plans, as the majority of Americans live on a monthly budget.

“Dental practices often offer cash discounts to uninsured or underinsured patients, but that doesn't optimize care or promote patient retention," Mrs. Zuniga said. "Cash discounts only focus on the care delivered today, and they diminish the value of high-quality dental services. These discounts also do not ensure that patients stay with your practice for their future dental care — while dental plans do.”

Offices are losing revenue with insurance write offs. Many find insurance alternatives, such as dental plans or third-party financing, favorable because they increase patient retention, improve care access, and provide a guaranteed fee for services. Once a dental plan is in place, patients are more likely to have necessary work performed because they have a fixed cost they can budget around. Offices offering a Wellfit Dental Plan see enrolled patients visit three to four times annually, compared to the patients without one only visiting one to two times.

Before launching a new dental financing program, evaluating the current state is essential

The first step dental leaders should take is to assess the current financial state of their organization. If patients are not electing the recommended treatments, it is worth investigating further if your office has resources in place to support them. Review the percentage of patients utilizing cash discounts and patient turnover rates. Consider if the existing approach for patient financing is working to provide revenue and support patient needs.

Another critical assessment is whether the programs are designed to account for staff members' needs and responsibilities. For example, how straightforward is it to train employees, and do the solutions make the day-to-day work easier? Successful programs stem from front-line ease of use and how easily it is integrated into routine processes. Any efficiencies gained with automated payment processing allows dental practices to reduce their administrative costs and free up time for other tasks.

Lastly, it is important to weigh whether financing strategies and processes are scalable across multiple offices. Programs with PMS integration can facilitate consistency and efficiency. Review the workflow and operational steps involved in the patient financing process and check for consistency or conflicts.

"Treatment coordinators and office managers are busy with a multitude of equally important responsibilities,” Mrs. Zuniga stated. “The easier the financing solutions are for the staff to use, and a natural progression can be included in their workflow, the more often they will promote to their patients. Success compounds operationally and financially.”

Frictionless dental financing improves the patient experience

Enhancing the patient experience through frictionless dental financing takes a little work behind the scenes. It is crucial for DSOs to analyze their patient base and find a financing partner that covers the full spectrum of FICO quality.

"Many times, a dental office will offer patients multiple financing options, which can be overwhelming," Mrs. Zuniga said. "Someone may come in for a prophylaxis and receive a $3,000 treatment plan. Presenting three different financing alternatives can be crippling for an office to facilitate and for the patient to evaluate thoroughly. Having one program that can confidentially encompass multiple options for all credit spectrums improves the patient experience."

Another transformative piece is proactively offering a financing plan with every treatment plan. Many times, patients will not move forward with a full treatment plan because they cannot afford it, and they are not aware that financing is an option. Many erroneously believe that cash or personal credit card payments are the only options available to them.

"Patients may be uncomfortable asking about financing. Being proactive removes any discomfort. It is easy for patients to decline interest or get more information on the spot. Offering a monthly payment that fits the patient's budget creates the opportunity to say yes to your care," Mrs. Zuniga contributed. The patient experience improves based on the problem-solving provided.

When it comes to measuring the success of financing programs, data tells the story

A few key metrics can help quantify the impact of dental financing programs.

One significant key performance indicator is the full-case conversion rate. Practices can measure whether this metric increases after implementing dental discount plans and third-party financing. Compare proposed treatment plans to how many patients have moved forward with those plans. "If patients aren't moving forward with the optimal care plan, it is mostly likely due to the financing piece of it. Financial concerns are the number one reason patients do not accept treatments,” Mrs. Zuniga explained.

A second useful metric is the frequency of cash discounts given to uninsured patients. If a practice decreases this KPI by shifting patients to dental discount plans, it will retain patients for at least a year, the length of a typical plan. The same can be said for a patient who schedules an initial visit on a new patient discount promo. When patients disclose they are uninsured, it presents a perfect opportunity to suggest a dental savings plan. The money spent attracting these new patients can now be recovered when a dental plan retains them as a patient to your office for the next year.

“It is incredibly important for us at Wellfit to collaborate with our partners and provide insight into their data in order to help them determine a program’s success. We provide supportive resources and can help uncover opportunities to recapture those patients back into the practice for necessary treatment," Mrs. Zuniga expressed.

Wellfit's streamlined partnership model offers DSOs and dental practices a wide range of financing services through a single platform that would otherwise require two or three different partners. Wellfit solutions offer one partnership to provide solutions for both dental plans and payment arrangements. By offering a variety of payment options, dental practices can improve their cash flow and reduce the risk of bad debt.

"Something we're passionate about at Wellfit is that every patient deserves optimal care," Mrs. Zuniga shared. "I love that our programs provide options to all patients regardless of their FICO score. We have constructed a confidential and easy process for an office to facilitate with one application - not multiple applications. Patients are provided options within minutes to access dental care when they need it."

Copyright © 2024 Becker's Healthcare. All Rights Reserved. Privacy Policy. Cookie Policy. Linking and Reprinting Policy.