Cost concerns have long been a significant barrier to receiving dental care in the United States. According to a research article published in the Journal of Health Affairs a few years ago, more people reported financial barriers to dental care than any other type of health care, regardless of their age, income level, or insurance status. This startling trend has led to more than 65% of Americans skipping dental visits or declining necessary treatment due to worries about the financial burden, with a surprising 48% of those affected coming from patients who have dental insurance.
The good news is that you can do a lot to reduce the impact of cost as a barrier to care. By taking specific steps to address patient pricing concerns, you can not only improve patient care but also enhance your practice's financial stability.
The first step in addressing cost concerns is transparency. Dental practices should provide clear and unambiguous cost estimates for each recommended procedure, including any out-of-pocket expenses. According to Cedar’s 2021 Healthcare Consumer Experience Survey, 37% of surveyed adults weren’t satisfied with the clarity of communication from their provider around billing. Patients need to have a comprehensive understanding of the actual cost of a procedure before they can make an informed decision. This transparency builds trust and helps patients feel more confident about the financial aspects of their treatment. On the flip side, a poor billing experience can be devastating for patient retention – a recent PYMNTS survey found that 63% of patients would switch doctors based on a negative payment experience.
Another crucial aspect of overcoming cost concerns is offering guidance on how patients can maximize their dental insurance benefits to minimize their financial burden. While this may not have been part of your initial understanding of what it meant to be a dentist, becoming proficient in interpreting and explaining dental insurance can be a game-changer. The Cedar’s survey also found that 34% of patients were not satisfied with the timeliness of the explanation of benefits. By helping patients make the most of their coverage and better understand it, you not only assist them in accessing necessary care but also maximize your revenue potential.
To make treatment more affordable and accessible, dental practices should consider providing flexible payment options. These can include installment plans or financing arrangements. However, it's essential to tread carefully here. Developing your own installment plan can be risky if you're not well-versed in "truth-in-lending" laws and financial accounting associated with deferred payment models. Instead, consider partnering with established solutions like CareCredit. These platforms allow you to realize revenue sooner while minimizing the regulatory risks associated with credit and deferred payments.
Approximately 77 million Americans lack dental insurance, and nearly half of those with coverage have postponed treatment due to high out-of-pocket costs. Given these statistics, it's reasonable to assume that most diagnosed treatment plans will require some direct payment by the patient. This can pose significant challenges, especially when it’s estimated that more than 60% of Americans live “paycheck to paycheck.”
Research from PYMNTS has found that this is becoming an increasing priority for a significant number of patients: more than quarter (27%) of surveyed patients said they would consider switching providers if they weren’t offered a payment plan or third-party financing. Offering flexible payment options through services like CareCredit can be a critical pathway for patients to accept care and for your practice to capture more revenue from existing patients. This is one of the reasons we’ve recently expanded our CareCredit partnership and our overall depth of integration with the CareCredit Credit Card.
While cost concerns remain a formidable barrier to dental care, dental practices can proactively address this issue by embracing transparency, providing insurance guidance, and offering flexible payment options. By doing so, you can help patients access the care they need and also improve the financial health of your practice. For most practices, converting patient backlog into realized revenue is the fastest path to growth and improved profitability.
Did you know the CareCredit credit card is integrated into RevenueWell Marketing Platform solutions? With this integration, you have the ability to see which patients have CareCredit accounts and cards, what amount they're pre-approved for, and more. You can help patients take charge of their oral health by alleviating cost concerns. Schedule a demo to learn more.