[ Read Part One ]
[ Read Part Two ]
[ Read Part Three ]
An Inside Look at the National Survey of Public Perceptions of Dentistry
The Crown Council was given the opportunity to help fund a significant study meant to identify public perceptions of dental health and the role dentists play in providing dental health services. We jumped on the opportunity because we felt it was time to see what was really on people’s minds when it comes to the dentist.
What we have attempted to do is translate the scientific data into a practical, easy plan for your practice in the form of understandable survey findings and some associated solid suggestions for your practice. Some of the results will not surprise you. Others may expand your vision of what you should be doing. Yet other results may be a little unsettling.
Survey Finding #4
“I love my dental insurance!”
As painful as that was to say, let’s take a look at reality and what is going with patient perceptions in the marketplace. Then you can decide what to do from there.
There are two significant, factual findings here. First, 87% of survey respondents that did have dental insurance also had been to a dentist for a checkup in the last 12 months. In contrast, only 60% of respondents that did not have dental insurance had been to a dentist for a checkup in the last 12 months. So it appears that having dental benefits may have some influence on how often patients choose to go the dentist.
87% WITH INSURANCE
60% WITHOUT INSURANCE
The second factual finding was the relationship between dental benefits and income. 53% of respondents that did have dental insurance make more than $60,000 annually. Meanwhile, 55% of respondents that did not have dental insurance make less than $40,000 annually. In other words, those with dental benefits may have a bigger capacity to pay not only in terms of the benefits that they have but in terms of overall income.
So what does all that mean, and what does it mean for your practice?
Over the years, insurance has gotten a bad name in dentistry. Much of it is well deserved. But however much you dislike it, the hassles associated with it, and the fees connected to it, it remains a factor in dentistry. So if patients are positively influenced by their dental benefits and it motivates them to come to the office more often AND those with dental insurance appear to have a larger capacity to pay, then we could conclude that patients who have dental insurance are a fertile market in dentistry.
Now that might sound like heresy in light of all of the insurance evils spoken of in dentistry. But stop for a moment and ask yourself these questions:
- What is your attitude toward dental insurance?
- Has your attitude been negatively influenced because of the lower fees and reimbursement hassles?
- Has that negative attitude been transferred onto your team?
- If they have the same attitude, how are they treating patients who have insurance, inquire about dental insurance benefits in your office, and naturally want to use their insurance?
Consider it this way. Let’s say I was invited as a guest to a party. I take the time to prepare, dress appropriately and arrive on time. But immediately upon arrival the host has some unkind words about my suit, my tie or my overall appearance.
How would I feel? I probably would not feel too great about the party or the host. In fact, I probably would not return.
By wanting to get rid of the insurance hassles for you and your practice, have you run off good quality patients who have the ability to pay … even more than perhaps patients who don’t have dental benefits?
Patients value their dental benefits. It is part of the compensation they get for the work they do at their employment. Logically, they want to utilize those benefits.
So what’s our job? To devalue something that they value? Could I suggest that we probably won’t score a lot of big points with our patient guest in our practice party by doing that! Our job is to recast those dental benefits in a light where patients can continue to value them in the proper perspective.
After all, the benefits tend to positively influence better patients to come more often to the dentist.
Based on the data, it might be appropriate to kind of get excited about patients with dental insurance. Remember, they tend to come more often and they tend to have more money! So what’s wrong with that?
If our attitude was, “We love our patients with dental benefits. Isn’t it great that you work at a place that provides that for you as part of your compensation? We know it is important to you so that is why we want to help you maximize your benefits while at the same time providing you the very best quality care we know how to provide. We will be happy to help you file for your benefits so that your insurance company can reimburse you directly since you are their customer and they want to keep you happy!”
Does that make sense?
Now I don’t know what your approach is with insurance in your office, whether you accept assignment, are a PPO provider, or don’t participate at all. I make no judgments about that because I have seen, firsthand, successful practices in all three categories. In fact, we help practices be successful in whichever category they choose including providing the systems to migrate into a different category.
The biggest message here in the survey data is not so much about you as it is about your patients and their perception of their benefits. They like them. They have a tendency to be positively influenced because of them. People with higher incomes appear to have them. So check your attitude and your communication skills with your patients with insurance. It can be a positive.
Additional findings from the Crown Council-funded survey on what dental patients really want will be excerpted on this blog. They are described in full in the FREE e-book, What Patients Really Want, by Steven J. Anderson, available here.
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