The Evolution of Membership Plans in Dentistry
Episode #318 with Megan Lohman – CEO of Plan Forward
If you want to know the benefits of a dental membership plan for you and your patients, today’s guest will teach you everything you need to know. Kirk Behrendt brings in Megan Lohman, founder and CEO of Plan Forward, to talk about common myths and misconceptions, and why you need a membership plan ASAP. By implementing it in your practice, you, your staff, and your patients will be happier! For more, listen to Episode 318 of The Best Practices Show!
Dental care has the highest cost barrier compared to other healthcare services.
Membership plans help alleviate the fear patients have about cost.
Many patients will benefit from membership plans; they will be happier and healthier.
Members spend more than nonmembers in membership plans — by two times!
Discount plans are not membership plans!
Have software to manage the plan automatically, not manually by your team.
Patients want convenience and transparency.
Offer both monthly and yearly payment options.
“[Membership plans are] so important because there are patients sitting in your practice, calling every single day, walking through your doors, who could benefit from this. And they're going to be healthier, happier people and patients for you. Dental insurance is not going away. But the massive population of people who don't have dental insurance is growing. And the frustrations both on the dentist and the patient side with dealing with insurance companies is growing. And so, it’s more restrictive, it’s just as expensive, there are so many hurdles. And that's not going away. But there's this massive population of people out there that need an alternative solution, but your business of the dental practice can really benefit from leveraging a well-constructed, well-organized membership plan.” (04:50—05:29)
“Dental treatment, whether it’s preventive care or restorative care, anything, dental care has the highest cost barrier compared to any other healthcare service. So, people are just confused. They don't know what they should be paying, they don't know what they're due for. And, frankly, if you're uninsured, patients are terrified to walk into your practice because you're going to start recommending things or saying, ‘We need to take X-rays.’ And they can just hear the cash register going, and they're like, ‘What is this going to cost me?’ And that's a terrifying feeling for anyone. So, from a psychological standpoint, patients are not walking through your doors if they don't have benefits, because they're afraid of the cost. And so, membership plans help alleviate that uncertainty.” (06:25—07:16)
“When I talk to dentists all over the country, they're like, ‘Oh, we already have a membership plan.’ And they explain it to me, and I'm like, ‘That's not a membership plan. That's a discount plan.’ So, a discount plan, that's where a patient pays — hopefully — you. If you're doing a discount plan, hopefully it’s at least an in-house discount plan, not a commercial one. But the patient would pay the practice a one-time fee to then essentially get a reduced fee schedule. So, they get discounts, but they're paying ala carte every time they come in. So, you're eligible for 12 months after you pay this one-time fee, and then the patient gets discounts.” (08:33—09:17)
“In our world, [the amount members spend versus nonmembers is] over two times for membership plans. They spend more than two times what an uninsured or an insured patient spends in a practice. And so, from a bottom-line revenue standpoint, there's no question that these patients are going to opt in more than anyone else.” (10:39—11:02)
“When patients are on a membership plan — I know we don't like the word “discount”. It cheapens our services, all the things. But consumers want to save money. Everybody wants a discount. Everybody wants savings. So, if they're opted in and they're on your plan, and they're more likely to be receptive to what you're saying and they know they have a little perk — or you can call it a courtesy. It’s a courtesy for being on our plan and they save 10% — their chances of accepting it literally increase by more than two times.” (12:35—13:07)
“When those plans don't auto-renew on the renewal date, there's just such a missed opportunity, not only from a revenue perspective, but there's an administrative burden of manually tracking and someone having to remember to do that. And I talk to people all the time, they’re like, ‘Ugh, we forgot to renew that person. We just gave away the cleaning for free because we forgot they were up for their renewal.’ So, that's what we’ve defined as a savings plan. So, you have this plan where people pay. They're opting in, but it’s still this very manual, tedious process, especially as it grows.” (13:45—14:19)
“You want to make it so simple, not only for your team but for your patients to enroll, like set it and forget it. That's what you want it to be. That's where the software really is a critical component for making these sustainable over a long period of time. Because what happens if Suzie, who’s been with you for 20 years, retires, or somebody goes on vacation, or has a sick family member and they're out, or whatever the case may be? Your plan can crumble and fall apart and lose momentum when you don't have a process in place or a system to manage it for you. So, the software is managing the plan, not your team, manually.” (14:51—15:35)
“If you don't know your numbers and you don't know how much gross revenue and net revenue and how much you're paying to administer the plan, or how much treatment acceptance you're getting from your membership patients, how do you know if you have to make tweaks or changes, or if it’s at a good price point? So, one of the biggest things that I talk to dentists about, especially if they already have a plan implemented, I'm like, ‘Are you making money on it?’ And a lot of times, they don't know. And so, when you have a system and you can just run your reports on how much revenue you've generated or how much treatment acceptance you had, you know how well this plan is performing for your business.” (16:36—17:19)
“With how you're collecting the revenue, how you're collecting those membership payments, whether they're monthly or yearly, number one, you would probably want to wait — it’s hard to run these reports monthly or weekly because you're not always collecting at the same time you're providing the service. So, I would say once you implement the plan, give it six months or so and run your report on how much revenue you've generated. So, get in your software, and if the software is as good as it should be, you can run your gross numbers so you know top-line revenue what you're collecting from your membership plan.” (17:42—18:23)
“I think you have to offer both. You are going to have a subset of patients who just don't want anything to do with monthly payments. They would just rather pay in full. They don't really need that. But then, you have families and entrepreneurs — I'm a business owner, and I have a family of four. I would much rather cashflow $120 a month than pay $1,600 once a year. And so, it really depends on the patient. And so, when you can offer both simply out of convenience for your patient, they feel like there are options.” (19:48—20:22)
“Marketing can be daunting. It doesn't have to be this big, elaborate marketing strategy. But just get it implemented, get your team comfortable with it, and you can leverage all the free tools out there, i.e., social media. You can put it on your social media. Word of mouth works wonderfully. Everybody around these dental practices have other small businesses or retirement communities, or places where pools of uninsured patients are hanging out regularly. And if you just put a little effort into dropping off a brochure or calling just to make people aware of this, make sure it’s on your website and do a little SEO, you could definitely promote this.” (23:25—24:13)
“Patients want convenience. They want transparency. The more we can give patients easy access to come into your practice — I mean, these plans don't cost a fortune. It’s like $30 a month, on average. So, it doesn't matter if you don't think you have a whole pool of patients, you know, ‘I'm going to wait until I have 500 patients that we can market this to.’ It’s never going to start like that. You have to just have it. It’s like, if you build it, they will come. Just create the plan, have somebody help you, make sure it’s profitable, train your team, have a good system in place, and you'll be off to the races.” (31:05—31:43)
Megan’s background. (03:19—04:12)
Why this is an important concept in dentistry. (04:35—05:38)
Dental care has the highest cost barrier. (06:21—07:17)
The evolution of membership plans. (07:48—10:06)
How much more members spend than nonmembers. (10:38—11:02)
Common myths of membership plans. (11:44—14:19)
Make it simple for your team and patients. (14:49—15:35)
Other myths and misconceptions of membership plans. (16:16—17:19)
Making adjustments and fee balancing. (17:41—19:18)
Monthly versus yearly payment options. (19:48—20:25)
The future of membership plans. (20:43—23:08)
How to use plans in your marketing. (23:21—26:03)
Evolution of dentists that use membership plans. (26:21—28:47)
Resistance to the membership program. (29:50—30:54)
Last thoughts. (31:04—31:43)
Megan’s contact information. (32:00—33:14)
Reach Out to Megan:
Megan’s website: https://www.planforward.io/
Megan’s email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Megan’s Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/megan.korte.58
Megan Lohman Bio:
After working in a dental practice and wearing many hats, I learned a lot about the business side of the dental industry and some of the challenges independent practices face, along with their patients. Helping people access and afford dental care was one of my primary focuses within our practice.
Today, I find myself still trying to help bridge the gap between access and affordability for patients, and profitability for providers. It's no surprise that creating in-house membership plans is a win-win for both providers and patients. And using a software to manage it makes it simple.
So, here I am now, accidentally a co-founder of a tech startup called Plan Forward. Our goal is not only to be amazingly awesome to work with, but also to make offering and managing membership plans simple and affordable.
In all honesty, it kind of blows my mind how I landed here. I have had a variety of professional experiences, improved my skills, enjoyed my jobs, but never quite put my finger on what I wanted to be when I grew up. I think it has all been paving the way to what I am doing now. Not only do I love a challenge, I enjoy change, a little risk, autonomy, lots of variety, networking, meeting new people, and a fast pace. And here I am, a business owner. Not only an owner, but an owner of a tech startup. How did this happen? Life is a great adventure, and I’m excited to see what happens next.