Bridge Over Troubled Waters

So, I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but the economy has taken a nose dive the past few years.

That was me being slightly sarcastic. 😉

If you didn’t know that, I got some real estate in Arizona that I’d LOVE to talk to you about!

Our office is located about 15 minutes from downtown Cleveland, Ohio and our area was hit HARD by the economy. A lot of businesses have closed or have drastically cut benefits for employees.  The home foreclosure rate is high, so high that ‘60 Minutes‘ came and did a special on our area. Ughh..it’s a mess.

In 2009, patients were CONSTANTLY calling telling me that they had to cancel their dental appointments because they lost benefits and/or jobs. What was I supposed to say to those people? I felt helpless. It goes without saying that I still tried to convey value to these callers by reminding them that regular check ups cost less in the long run than only going when there’s a problem. Unfortunately, it wasn’t enough. I started to worry about the future of our office.

You know how most dental patients think. They BELIEVE that if they don’t have dental insurance, then they can’t go to the dentist. We KNOW that’s not true. The hard part is getting your patients to UNDERSTAND that the way you do. A lot of patients don’t think twice about dropping $200 at Target at once, but they will resist the idea of paying $100 out of pocket for a dental checkup. I have to stop here for a second and just mention that some people have some really messed up priorities. My health is SO important to me that I will never put some shelving unit ahead of paying my doctor.

OK, let me get off the tangent and back on the circle.

Because I’m a big fan of sharing specifics, here’s an example of how a phone conversation USED to go.

Patient: Hi Missy-I hate to do this, but I lost my dental insurance and have to cancel my appointment for next week.

Me: Oh-I’m sorry to hear that. We can still see you to keep your smile healthy, and it costs less in the long run to keep coming every 6 months.

Patient: I know, but I’d have to pay all out of pocket, and I just don’t have it right now. I’ll have to call you back.

Me: Ok, I’ll be in touch.

That used to happen OVER and OVER. It was frustrating to me because with all of the scripts I tried, patients were just not responding.

After this happened a dozen times or so, Dr. Fryer and I decided that we HAD to do something. We did some research, talked to other offices in the country, and heard about something called, The Quality Dental Plan (QDP) run by Dr. Dan Marut.

I was intrigued about this plan, but also hesitant because after doing this for 15 years, I’ve seen fly by night plans that were worthless. You know how that goes, patients will try to find their own plans on the internet and that’s pretty much always a mess. Most of those plans prey on poor unsuspecting souls.  Patients get lured into the peace of mind of having insurance, but they don’t realize that the plan they bought from the internet has a high deductible, a two year waiting periods, and that there is only one doctor in the state that accepts the plan.

So, you can imagine my skepticism with QDP.

Turns out, QDP was NOTHING like those other plans.

Here’s how a phone conversation goes in my office NOW.

Patient: Hi Missy-I hate to do this, but I lost my dental insurance and have to cancel my appointment for next week.

Missy: Oh! You are in luck! We offer a GREAT dental plan here for patients in your position. It’s called the Quality Dental Plan. Have you heard of it?

Patient: No.

Missy: That’s because we are the only office in the area who offers it to patients! We wanted to do something to help patients out in your position because we believe so strongly that that regular visits should be affordable!

Patient: That’s so nice of you guys! What do I have to do to sign up?

In that conversation, QDP becomes almost tangible to them. It eases that mental block that they “can’t go to the dentist without insurance”. They feel that it’s OK to go to the dentist because now they have this plan.

Once we started offering QDP, I contacted those patients who lost insurance to tell them that we now offered a plan they could join.

People are funny. Before QDP, I had a patient who called to cancel his recall because he “couldn’t” pay for it out of pocket. This patient called back to schedule after he heard about QDP and not only paid for his membership over the phone, but he also paid for his wife and 3 children. People don’t mind plunking down the fee for themselves and their families when they enroll in the plan for a year. It’s so interesting to me how they just feel differently about paying for an enrollment fee verses paying for their dental care all out of pocket.

QDP is EXACTLY the type of product a dental office needs to survive in this economy. This is the way to bridge that gap in your patient’s mind. Get into the mind of your patients and give them what they want! This economy is probably going to get worse before it gets better. Don’t lose another patient.

Not only were we able to recapture those patients who were on a dental hiatus with us, but we have also managed to enroll a segment of the population who desperately needed a product like this.

We believe so strongly in QDP that the doctor and I made a video to show our support. We wouldn’t have taken the time to do so, if we didn’t fully appreciate Dr. Marut’s product.

2011 was our best year in our 20 year history.

I’m not sure how many other businesses in our area had record breaking years. QDP was a big reason for our success.

Questions? Comments? Let me know!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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