The Village Dental Practice, Swansea

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Graham Givens has always enjoyed and appreciated the benefits of payment plans, following his original conversion from the NHS in 2005, but as tough economic realities hit home his relationship with his existing dental plan provider increasingly came under scrutiny.

Problem

  • Tough economic conditions and outlook
  • Increase in local NHS provision
  • Disillusionment with “national brand”
  • High costs of existing plan provider

The Village Dental Practice is surrounded by a number of NHS providers, all offering alternatives to private care, so during the past 2 years the team has had to work hard at retaining patients. Graham has also been forced to re-adjust his long and short term goals to take account of the wider economic environment, while considering any areas of his business in which efficiency might be improved.

Although Graham appreciated the benefits of having a dental plan in place, in terms of enhanced cash-flow and building patient loyalty, he identified the administration of his plans as a key area in which improvements could be made. With 2,800 patients on-plan he was a little anxious about changing provider, but by 2010 Graham was desperate to instigate a change:

“I was disturbed by the realisation that some of my patients were under the misapprehension that I worked for the company that provided their dental plan! Added to this was the cost savings that I knew would be made through the changeover; my existing provider was charging a relatively high administrative cost for a service which I felt lacked efficiency.”

Solution

  • Switch to DPAS to reduce costs
  • Establish practice branded dental plans
  • Use DPAS’s experience and expertise to support the practice during the changeover

Graham used the changeover as an opportunity to re-brand the practice as well as the dental plan and DPAS helped considerably in this regard, offering assistance with fee setting and managing the process. The practice achieved their goals by following a specific strategy that involved DPAS distributing letters and the practice manager and receptionists dealing with any face-to-face questions, broaching the subject with patients at every available opportunity. This proactive approach enabled the practice to achieve their target patient numbers in a relatively short period of time.

The cost savings made by switching plan providers has enabled Graham to incorporate a “fee-freeze” into his overall business strategy. This obviously had a beneficial impact on patients and smoothed the changeover path.

“Often patients simply want the reassurance that they are still going to get the same standards of care. A face-to-face chat allays their fears and they are happy to sign up, particularly with the added benefit of fees remaining fixed for the following 12 months.”

Benefits

  • Smooth transition from nationally branded to practice branded plans
  • Yearly savings enabled fee freeze for patients
  • Plan has provided a solid foundation for business growth

As a result of the changeover well over 95% of patients converted to the new plan - a handful remain with the previous provider but the practice is continuing to convert any “stragglers”. They have been delighted with their ability to successfully retain patients and are now seeing a positive growth in patient numbers on plan.

Graham’s overall yearly saving has been somewhere in the region of £15,000 and in the first instance he has used this money to incorporate a fee freeze that he felt would be of particular benefit during these challenging economic times. In the future this additional revenue will be put to use re-equipping the practice or hiring additional staff.

“My experience of the changeover process has been very positive – I consider that in providing dental plans a company should be efficient and knowledgeable about plan administration. Many practices are drawn to the lure of additional marketing help, education and other peripheral “add-ons”, all of which are very welcome, but when they are promoted and delivered to the exclusion of performance in the core business area, the relationship simply becomes frustrating. Actually, when I objectively consider the “other” areas in which DPAS provide help and assistance there is not that much difference.”

Having enjoyed such success in the last 12 months at his Swansea practice, Graham is now in the process of introducing an identical plan into his mainly NHS practice in Bridgend. Although he knows there are differences between an NHS conversion and a provider changeover he is using his experience in Swansea to guide how he approaches this new challenge. With over 95% of patients being NHS, conversion is a slow process but they already have over 100 patients who have taken up the dental plan option and he has great expectations for the future of this particular project. “I only have one regret in my whole changeover process and that is that I didn’t do it earlier!”

To find out more about The Village Dental Practice transfer and how DPAS can make your existing payment plan administration work more efficiently, please get in touch.

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