Offering your own dental plan is a great way to increase patient retention, but many practices are doing it wrong. Some practices hire it out to other companies to create and manage, but revenue goes into the outsourced company's pockets. Other practices benefit plans end up being just a one-time discount on service and struggle to maintain retention.
Paul Lowry of Dental Menu speaks with Dr. John and Wendy about the pitfalls to watch for when offering a dental membership or benefit plan to patients. You'll also get insight into how dental practices can easily create, offer, and manage their own dental benefits plan.
Intro: Welcome to the double, your production podcast with the team training Institute, the one place designed for dentists and their staff who want to grow their practices by following in the footsteps of those that have done it or in the trenches who know exactly what you're going through. And now your leaders, the stars of the podcast, Dr.
John Meis and Wendy Briggs.
Dr. John: Welcome everybody to this edition of the w production podcast. I'm Dr. John Meese
Paul Lowry: and I'm here with Wendy Briggs. Hey Dr. John,
Wendy Briggs: I'm doing well. I'm excited to dig into our topic today. We've got a super awesome guest and I know all of our listeners will get so much great information out of today's podcast.
Fantastic. Paul, do you want to introduce yourself and your.
Paul Lowry: Yeah, sure. So I'm Paul, I'm the co-founder of dental menu. And dental menu basically is a white label software platform that allows offices to offer a membership plan. That's unique and more effective than what they've currently been doing.
Dr. John: As we all know, these membership plans have become much more popular in recent years. And it has been a struggle in some places. And I had to figure out if you've found your way around all of the various regulatory bodies that seem to be different from
Paul Lowry: state to state.
Dr. John: And then the other things that, that the way that you can customize your product, I think it really
Paul Lowry: people should learn. Yeah,
Wendy Briggs: I think so too, Dr. John let's first, maybe help our listeners realize why an in-house benefit plan is such a good thing to look at. You mentioned they have beginning gaining popularity, and I think there's a few compelling reasons for that.
I think it gives practices an option for patients who don't have it. Or patients who have just really the crappiest of the crappy PPS that, that really don't pay much at all. I think as well, we understand the importance of patient retention to practice profitability. So these are some of the things that I see that are motivating and inspiring dental practices to look at creating a benefit plan.
What else are you saying?
Paul Lowry: A couple of things. Number
Dr. John: one, who
Paul Lowry: is the question for Wendy? I just popped in. Yeah, no, go ahead, John. The two things that, that,
Dr. John: The two metrics. That membership plan moves is number one is patient retention. We know that the patient retention for people on a plan is almost double what it is for people who aren't on the plan.
And the other thing is people that have a membership plan also spend more, and it's roughly about 27% more. So it's the significant number more. So you combine those two things. And it's a huge factor in improving the dental health of your patients because they stay longer and they take care of more of their needs than then if they
Paul Lowry: didn't have a plan.
Wendy Briggs: So we've advocated us for quite some time. And as you mentioned, Dr. John there's been, an evolution. Of of practices trying their own benefit plan. There's been at first, it was, Hey, hire a company and they could administer all of it for you. But some of those companies, they kept all of the revenue from the in-house plan or at least a good chunk of it.
And so then practice has said, okay, we're going to just do it ourselves. But then they ran into trouble with the states and calling it an insurance plan. Got them into trouble because then they were they had to abide by all the same regulations and insurance companies have to abide by.
Dr. John: And there, there were multiple ways that people got into trouble with regulatory bodies or this.
So fortunately there's a path through it, but the path isn't necessarily easy. And that's what I'm so excited to hear
Paul Lowry: about is that how well
Dr. John: we've gotten through that path, what states are affected and all that kind of stuffs.
Wendy Briggs: Yeah. So we have heard that Paul Lowery had dental menu have fixed a lot of these headaches.
So we had to have him as a guest on our podcast. So he could share a little bit more about a better way another option for those that maybe have had struggles with their benefit plans or haven't gone down that road yet. So we're excited to learn all of the things that dental menu does differently to help practices do this in an easier, more cost-effective.
Paul Lowry: Sure. And I hope to share some ideas too even if you don't engage with us, that there'll be some things you could do to improve your own plans regardless of how you're doing it and how you're administering it. Really what we found, the reason we got into this is we did a bunch of research found similar numbers to what Dr.
John there was quoting. But the patients without dental insurance, if you're doing any kind of marketing, they simply don't stick long-term into the practice. And the offices that we were working with had their own in-house plan, but it was failing really to retain those patients long-term. And as we listened to a lot of the front desk the presentation and how those plans were sold.
A lot of times the plans were simply just sold on treatment acceptance. And so it was a simply, Hey Wendy, you have a $4,000 treatment plan set up for our plan. It's $300 a year. You get 20% off. So sure. The patient signs up, but they don't renew and really stick long-term the long-term retention wasn't there.
It was simply just a discount on treatment. And as we talked to a lot of patients saying, why didn't you renew the discount plan or, in colony at a discount plan, Basically says it's just a discount on treatment. So looking at it, really what patients want and trying to get outside of what doctors think and trying to see what consumers actually want to purchase.
And what they're interested in is really what we did with our research. And that's how we came up with dental menu. Yeah.
Dr. John: Fantastic. So what is it that, that the consumers want? What did your research tell you?
Paul Lowry: So the biggest thing that they wanted was choice when you talk to patients without dental insurance, a lot of them don't buy into the every six month cleaning.
A lot of them don't want that or they think it's too expensive. It was crazy because we looked at a whole bunch of patients in offices and we gave them price points. All right, here's the list of benefits. It's 25 a month or it's 30, $30 a month. It didn't really matter what the price point was.
You had patients that said it was too expensive, of course, regardless of what the price was. And then you had patients that said actually I would spend more on other services. And so I think it's priced essentially too low. And so what you find is doctors, when they don't offer any kind of choice, they're forced to create a box they're forced to put a single dealer price.
It's going to be too expensive for some patients they're going to be leaving money on the table for other patients. It's just kind of basic economics. Yeah. So how does it
Wendy Briggs: differ than how if I'm a dentist looking at this, I'm thinking that sounds really complicated. How do you simplify that and allow the patients.
Paul Lowry: Yeah. So our software platform is completely white label and customized to the practice. Like what you were saying, Wendy, it drives me nuts in the membership space where these companies, that quote unquote help, they end up charging the patient. They control that money flow. To me as quasi insurance.
That's what insurance companies do. And so our software platform basically allows you to offer some different frequencies of how often a patient receives the preventative care. So you're a hygienist, Wendy, if I said, Hey, how often should somebody come in for perio-maintenance? What would your answer?
Wendy Briggs: It depends on the person, but usually every three to four months.
Paul Lowry: Sure. Yeah. And so with dental menu platform, you could actually have a perio plan that gives them the perio maintenance every three months and every four months. So that as a hygienist, you could actually recommend what fits them.
Their mouth. I, until you see him, so most perio plans, again, you have to just choose like, all right. It's every three months. And hopefully that fits same thing with cleanings. If you look at kids, we've got a lot of offices, especially in the PIDO side of things that offer a cleaning every four months for kids.
If they're in braces or they don't clean their teeth. Why should they come in every six months? Why not get them in every four months? They don't have perio, but they could benefit by coming in more often. And then on the flip side, we have offices that will even offer a cleaning once a year. To get that price point way down and at least retain that patient somewhat.
Maybe it's not ideal if they come in once a year, but if you look at your data, they're coming in every four or five years, they're not coming in every six months. They're not coming in every year. They're waiting until something hurts. They're price shopping you around. They're going to Google when something hurts.
So you gotta figure out how to actually get them and retain them into your practice. And so we build, we've got a really slick online. Web apps. So it looks really good with an iPad, with a phone. When you put it on your website, we can build out those frequencies and then patients, hopefully with the help of your team can basically build out their own custom plan to your office.
Wendy Briggs: So it is super slick. I've seen it right. And so they can choose the frequency. But what other options can they choose from Paul? Because this is what I thought was.
Paul Lowry: Yeah. So we're talking about profitability right now in this. And if you look at different services that you can offer in a subscription, this is really where our, one of our main differentiators is think of things like fluoride.
Those are just take fluoride. I don't have dental insurance. Unfortunately, half the time I go in the hygienist, doesn't talk to me about fluoride. I have to bring it up as a patient. 50% of the time. They're not selling it to me when they do ask and you people listening, you guys are hygienists.
What is a patient without insurance usually ask how much does it cost? Here's the benefits of fluoride was $30 and then I'm making a buying decision with me, maybe a couple of kids, maybe my wife, I'm making a 60, 90, $120 buying decision. When I come back in six or eight or 12 months, guess what happens?
The same conversation. Hey, do you want fluoride? I don't know. Remind me of the benefits and how much is it? And so on. So at dental menu, you can sell things like fluoride for 2, 3, 4 bucks a month. Things like nitrous Botox you could sell with those treatments, upgraded imaging, a lot of offices. If you talk to front office and back office, And, maybe you guys know this better than I do, but we hear from a lot of back-office.
We took all these extra images. We're supposed to charge the patient, but we don't really want to have that icky sales conversation. So we'll just take the pictures and brush it under the rug. And then the front office, it's like, what are we supposed to do? You didn't explain to the patient that the panel is $300 and then it's we either make the patient mad or we write it off and make the doctor mad.
What do we do? It's a lose. So imagine the conversation where it's Hey, John. You really need a panel x-ray we need to see what's going on. Why don't have insurance? How much is that going to cost? It's $200 for the panel. X-ray Ooh, I don't know. I don't know if I want to do that. Hey, tell you what you could upgrade your plan for eight bucks a month and then any, and all images are going to always be covered.
You don't have to worry about it anymore. It's eight bucks a month. We'll add it to your plan. Don't worry about it anymore. Again, emergency services, emergency exams, emergency x-rays. People almost always add this worry free package. The thing that's really crazy too, is the patients that buy the every 12 month cleaning frequency, almost every one of them adds a worry free package for six or seven bucks a month because they're trying to hedge their bets.
They're saying I'm only going to go in one time for my cleaning, but if something happens, I'm only going to pay another seven bucks a month. But imagine if you have 200 patients and you can get them to upgrade at 15 bucks a month, For nitrous emergency exams, fluoride depending on what kind of in-office whitening is huge.
I've got an office in Houston that sells a whitening only plan to all patients, insurance and uninsured. They have over 50 patients paying them 12 bucks a month for whitening. And it's awesome. So any of these services will help you buy those, but what we're finding again, as we have patients that are spending 50, 60, 70 bucks a month on their membership plan, and when we ask them.
What, why are you doing that? A lot of them just said, I care about my mouth. I want the best. So I just bought everything because I figured that's the best thing. And what's 70 bucks versus 30 bucks. I'm just going to buy it. Other ones said I want this, or I want this, or I want this, but now you're able to get those patients.
We've got patients paying 12 to 15 bucks a month, all the way up to 60, 70 bucks a month, which of course really increases the profitability of your plan as well as it increases the number of patients that stick to the plan because they chose what they want.
Dr. John: Yeah. Fantastic.
Paul Lowry: So how does your pricing. So we price things a little differently.
We'll go through a, an onboarding session with the doctors and we're going to talk to them about profitability. We're going to look at some insurance reimbursement numbers. We're going to look at the UCRs and the questions we're going to ask is, all right, you're making this much for insurance. How much do you actually want to make when you do a cleaning and when you do x-rays and you do exams.
Let's figure that out. And we put those inputs in our backend. That's what kicks out the pricing, not throwing darts at pricing. Let's figure out what you want to make. So it's all across the board, depending on where these offices are located and really what their philosophy is. Yeah. But they choose the practice.
Ultimately, it's your plan. You choose what you want to charge.
Wendy Briggs: Yeah, and I think that's better than just saying, Hey, I saw an example out of Oklahoma, and they charged three 50 a month or three 50 a year. So that's what we're going to charge, there's, I think there's gotta be a little bit more thought that goes into it.
What about the administration of it though Paul? Because that's where we get into trouble. How do we credit the hygiene providers? How do we figure out how this, these revenues are allocated? That's that also causes a lot of stuff. For practices, is there a simpler way with dental? My
Paul Lowry: need to do that.
Yeah. So we had an MVP software. We ran for two years with 30 offices so that we could figure this side of it out because most people to be very clear with everybody listening, it's not hard to run monthly. We can fire up a merchant account. I can show you how to set up a subscription and charge 25 bucks a month.
That's not hard. The challenges is what do we do with the revenue? How do we input that into our practice management software? And then like you're saying, Wendy, how do we tie those providers in the benefits? When we first started this, we had some real awkward conversations. At lunch with doctors and associates.
And we talked to the owner doc and say, Hey, we're we don't know. So how do you credit your associate doctors sitting here when he does exams on your membership plan? And it was like red face and actually we just put them in a zeros in the lab, Roger, and write it off. Same thing with hygienists.
We've talked to a lot of hygienists that they hate patients with membership plans because they don't get any credit Purim. If you own a practice and your team, your most profitable patients are most hated by your team. Something's wrong, you haven't aligned it properly. So what we do, and it's really neat, especially if you have a multi location office.
The money we handle the money. It gets charged. Whether it's every month you can charge annually if you want, or even semi-annual that money I'll go is we coach to set up a bank account separate just for your membership revenue, and then our software. You actually go and check the patient out just like you would with insurance.
You're going to choose the what hygienists did the cleaning, what doctor did the exam? And then our reports look very much like an EOB report where it'll actually have you transfer revenue from your membership account to your operating account. And then you can actually record it. Those payments on the patient ledger with the provider is revenue from the membership plan.
That's one way to handle it. But if you do that, you'll actually show up a payment for a cleaning, a payment for an exam and a payment for x-rays on the patient ledger. And then, if you're running just how much production did we do in hygiene that month, your numbers aren't going to be off because you actually attract.
A payment from the membership plan on the ledger for that. We do have an integration for open dental that is built and out. We're really close to Eaglesoft and Dentrix, as far as I'm aware, we're the only company that has those integrations. So it's pretty fantastic. For instance, an open dental, you just, you set your dental menu plan up just like you would an insurance plan with.
Reimbursement rates. You go check that patient out and then it pings our software. And then your reports are going to show you exactly what happened and how to attribute the revenue. You don't need to worry about what they're paying for, what subscription they're on or anything else. You just get those reports, you record that revenue, your front desk.
Doesn't have to worry. Yeah. Yeah. I love that. Yeah. It takes it a step further. If you guys have multi locations, you can set up a centralized account, but patients can go to whatever location they want to. And whatever location actually does, the production on the membership plan would get credited for that.
The corporation would capture the breakage and the profit from the plan but members could actually move across town and take their membership with them. And so you could start marketing that plan. On a greater area and marketed across the gray area and patients can go wherever they want. Even if one location doesn't have any appointments for three weeks, they could go to a different location, but that location would get credit for doing the actual cleaning exam.
Wendy Briggs: I love that, we love innovative companies that solve problems for dental practices and dentistry in itself. And that's why we wanted to at you on the podcast today is because we know we've heard all the struggles, that we've addressed here today. I love the fact that the providers could be excited about seeing these patients, because like you mentioned, the last thing we want to do is have our hygienists or assistants roll their eyes and be like, oh, we got too many of these freebies in today and that's really not what's happening.
So I love how easy you've made it. I love how the patients can customize their plans on their own. And so I think, obviously we'll put some information on the podcast homepage on how listeners can get in touch with you that want to learn more Dr. John and I know as well, how profitable and how important these.
In-house plans are so we sure appreciate you coming in.
Paul Lowry: Yeah.
Dr. John: The flexibility and simplicity of it that's going to be a
Paul Lowry: huge help to our members. Yeah, I did. I recently did a quick five minute screen share kind of mini demos so that people it's always, no one wants to talk to a sales guy, so I can give that to you guys.
Your members can watch that without, they don't have to put in an email or anything. Just check it out. No, no worries. And see if it's something you think might. That's
Dr. John: awesome. We'll put the link on the notes for
Paul Lowry: the
Dr. John: podcast and that way people can find out more information really easily.
Paul Lowry: So that's. Yeah,
Dr. John: thanks,
Wendy Briggs: Paul. We know a couple of our top practices are currently using you and they're already delighted, which tells us a lot. So we can't wait to learn more and continue to see how practice can really focus on patient retention and giving patients what they want. We always talk about how we need to do a better job in dentistry of getting patients what they want.
So we'd love that.
Paul Lowry: Yeah. Yeah. Thanks for having me guys. Yeah, that's awesome.
Dr. John: Thanks Paul. Thanks Wendy. And thanks everybody for being here on this episode of the double your production podcast.
Paul Lowry: We'll see you next time.
Sign up to receive email updates
Enter your name and email address below and I'll send you periodic updates about the podcast.