Dr. Burneson operates a private practice dental office in Ashland, Oregon specializing in restorative and cosmetic dentistry. In February of 2020, he was awarded a Fellowship in the International Congress of Oral Implantologists, the oldest and largest dental implant organization in the world. This is his story and experience with starting and scaling a membership plan.
So you think you want to start your own in-office dental membership plan? The fundamentals of starting your own in-house membership plan isn’t complicated, right? Set your fees, figure out a way to track the plan and members, decide how to bill them, and then roll it out to your patients. From a planning perspective, it’s not a big scary task. However, maintaining the plan and pulling reports, as well as staying profitable can be a nightmare without the right guidance.
We recently had the privilege of sitting down with one of our practices and having a candid conversation about their own in-house plan and why they chose us to be their partner.
See how one office used Plan Forward to build a profitable membership plan and increase revenue.
Dr. Burneson inherited a membership plan when he acquired his dental practice. “I inherited that plan in 2019 and we spent time really kind of assessing the bottom line of that plan. And whenever we did that, we noticed the office was taking a huge hit every month. We knew early on that a change in the plan needed to happen, but we were kind of unaware of what that change needed to be and how to administrate the intricacies of that plan.”
They were using their own in house membership plan within their existing practice management software, OpenDental. They did what many other practices do and created codes in their PMS for each plan, adult, child, and perio. But, at the end of the month when they pulled reports it was really difficult to parse everything down and show the actual revenue of the plan versus discounts and adjustments. The hardest pill to swallow was after all this administrative work, they were losing money by offering it.
“I pulled up a little report on my previous plan.For new patients, if they just did preventive cleanings, exams, and x-rays they would be getting anywhere from 50-73% off our total master fees. If they had a family member join their plan, then that person would get an additional hundred dollars off for their enrollment fee, and that meant they were getting anywhere from 65-81% off our fees. We can’t live on 81% discounts! While we wanted to help our patients, that previous plan was really hurting the office. And even though we were producing enough to keep it, it was really cutting into our bottom line.Actually, when I bought the practice, it was one of the first things my accountant said to me. He said we have to figure out this plan. My team members that were involved at the time didn’t understand the need, or have the time, to make it happen right away.
Time and experience is the crux of it. Teams are often busy enough with the day to day tasks that adding one more item to their plate is often not possible. Dr. Burneson recognized this and knew he needed to figure out a better way to fix their membership plan so he started examining their fees.
When deciding to start your own in-house dental membership plan you need to know your master fees for services and what the average insurance company charges and covers.
In order for a membership plan to be a win, it has to be profitable for both you and your patients. Dr. Burneson did just that.
“I would say every office needs to start a plan. There’s a couple caveats there, but when you are looking at starting a plan, you need to know what your master fees are. You wanna pull the UCRs for your zip code. You wanna look at what your top PPO plans, if you have PPO plans, what they’re paying? So once you figure out your UCRs, put them in a higher range and decide whatever your restorative or whatever your discount fee is going to be, you want that to be just above what your highest PPO is, or you could set it equal to if you want.”
Once he connected with Plan Forward, Dr. Burneson received the kind of support and partnership he needed to confidently relaunch his plan. “I was introduced to Plan Forward in 2021 and we began developing a new plan that would do that. They would add both ease of use and better profitability to the office. And then we eventually launched in may of 2022. Plan Forward’s software is making it easier for that to happen. I can go on Plan Forward with a couple clicks and find out enrollments. I can find out transaction history. I can verify transaction history with the bank real easy.” said Dr. Burneson. He was able to leverage our team’s expertise to fix his existing plan and create a profitable plan that will remain profitable for years to come.
“You have to work with people that understand this business. My contact has been Janelle and she has been absolutely wonderful at helping me step by step, to get that going. It’s with anything you’re gonna have a lot of learning. It’s a pretty good size learning curve, especially whenever it comes to technology. But Janelle’s right there. She was there the entire time, making it easy for us.”
This team increased their master fees by 20% with their dental membership plan
“When I started it, I wasn’t planning on doing a huge master fee increase. But we did, and that made a huge difference. I just pushed 20% into the computer and hit go. I’m not even joking. I didn’t want to be the cheapest office in town, I wanted to be a nice office and have patients realize that. That filters the patients that are transaction patients and price shoppers. So here’s the deal…Plan Forward creates relationship based patients instead of transaction based patients, and that’s killer.”
“The value of membership patients is really great because these are the patients that actually have an innate reason to return to keep their health at a higher level. They are the ones that pay their bills on time. They don’t miss their appointments. They go through with treatment. That’s a completely different set of patients than you have with PPO patients that are just there for whatever insurance covers. And sometimes they cancel. They just don’t care.”
Many patients don’t understand their dental insurance coverage and are often shocked when services are denied and downgraded. The intention behind a membership plan is to not only attract uninsured patients, but show your current insured patient base that there’s a better alternative. So it’s really important to factor in what insurance typically covers and what it costs your patients so your in-house membership plan is an attractive alternative. Aside from cost alone, you can also show patients that insurance is not always looking out for their best interest. Their healthcare decisions should be a personal conversation between you and them.
“In the dental office, you’ve got the insurance company on your shoulder. You can’t do that. With a membership plan, the doctor and the patient become the ones that move the treatment forward and that’s the way it should be. I would ask patients “Do you wanna be in charge of your healthcare? Do you want somebody else to be in charge of your healthcare?” And the patient’s going to say, well, I want to be in charge of my healthcare. And we say, then this is the plan for you. If you want somebody else to tell you what they think you should have, what they think you’re worth, then use a dental PPO. It’s fine. But if you wanna be the one that has the conversation with the dentist, see all the options and make that choice yourself, then you’re in a different paradigm. You’re in a different world.”
Once you’ve figured out what to charge and how to manage your membership plan, then you can start thinking about how to grow membership enrollment. This is where Plan Forward really differentiates from the competition. This team doesn’t just help you plan the setup, but they plan for growth and prepare all the essential materials for you, keeping your brand front and center.
“The marketing support’s been really great, it’s so easy to use. They come up with the graphic design for your office. It looks beautiful. And then it gets to be something that’s easy for the patients to see and really simple for them to understand. It’s not like you’re selling this plan, the plan sells itself.”Dr. Burneson
Plan Forward partners with your practice to provide the strategy, tools and software needed to create your own custom membership plan based on your goals and patient needs. We make it easy and free up your time so you can focus on the patients in front of you.
You are 100% in control of your membership plan, fees, and services – simply put, we provide the tools to make building, tracking, and collecting fees easier.
Why work with us? Aside from the recurring revenue, boosted patient loyalty, and increased acceptance – we partner you with a real human who is committed to helping you reach your goals. Your success is our success.