One of the most encouraging and worthwhile programs my practice has put in place to date was a Groupon deal that we started running nearly three years ago. It has brought in people from so many walks of life—young, old, employed, retired, in need of a cleaning, and some in need of much more. We didn’t start the program to make money; we started it to do our little part in getting patients who really needed to see a dentist in the door. There are many hurdles people face these days when it comes to dental care, and most of it is based on money or fear. This Groupon offering essentially took the money part out of the equation and gave us the opportunity to educate, communicate with, and care for individuals with significant dental needs—individuals who, otherwise, likely wouldn’t have seen a dentist.
But we noticed one thing about many of these patients. Once we broke down the barrier of getting them in to see us for the first time (and, for some, it was the first time seeing a dentist in five, 10, or 20 years), there was still a significant financial burden when they were presented with the necessary dental treatment. The absolute last thing on our mind was to scare people away, but by no fault of any of us, it’s what’s happened on many occasions. We realized we had to keep these people coming back, not just for their treatment, but for their routine preventative visits. You see, it’s these regular visits that allow us to catch cavities before they get big, infections before they start, and fractures before they break. It keeps patient pain and discomfort to a minimum, but also it keeps their treatment costs down. “Heroic” dental treatment, meaning significant work to save or replace a tooth, is always more expensive than a smaller, preventative measure. And so we embarked on putting together something that could benefit these patients and many others like them.
We put our collective (tiny-brained) heads together and came up with a plan—a WELLNESS plan! It’s a yearly membership program with a reasonable yearly sign up fee (cheaper than two regularly priced exams/cleanings!). It provides patients with no cost preventative exams, cleanings, and X-rays while also discounting our fees for restorative and cosmetic procedures. There is no maximum allowable benefit and no third-party insurance company to hassle with. It’s completely in-house and even provides a discount for additional family members.
It’s in our hearts to help people, but we also run a business—one that employs several doctors and many staff members, so it has to remain profitable or everyone loses. This type of program allows opportunity for both, and it is our little part in helping to combat the access to care issue we’re facing in our profession. Now we’re knocking down the barriers to dental wellness, one fluoride varnish at a time!!
Donald Murray III, DMD