Case Acceptance Can Soar With Financing Options
Help more patients get necessary treatments while improving your profitability
Richard P. Gangwisch, DDS
Let's face the facts. Dentistry is a business, and to be profitable, a business has to sell, whether it is a product or, in our case, a service. To successfully sell anything, one must have buyers who are ready, willing, and able. The ready and willing parts are usually not too difficult to establish as long as we are respecting patients' values and can point out how they will benefit from our recommended treatments. It's the "able" part that can prove to be the highest hurdle.
We would certainly love to have every patient pay for his or her treatments in full with cash or check at the time of service; however, many are already overextended from mortgage payments, car payments, childcare expenses, and other needs. To entice people to consider paying for everything in full, you may want to consider offering a prepayment discount. This type of discount can be a small price to pay for not having to chase people for payment after the fact. Accepting credit cards is another option to allow you to get paid, and the credit card companies can do the collecting. If those options are not feasible to your patients, then connecting them with other third-party financing options may be the easiest and safest way to keep you out of the banking business.
Healthcare credit cards can help tremendously. Companies such as CareCredit can offer non-recourse financing to your patients with a period of zero interest—for a fee to you of course. Depending on the various options, the fees tend to run about 10% for providers, but it is well worth it in cases in which a patient would otherwise choose no or lesser treatment if financing was unavailable. Non-recourse is extremely important. If a patient defaults on his or her loan, then the financing company won't be knocking at your door wanting their money back from you.
When patients prequalify for financing, you may want to consider offering them in-house financing. If a patient is that creditworthy, then you stand a good chance of eventually getting paid in full. This can be a great way to save that 10% in fees. If you do offer in-house financing, it's a good idea to have the patient sign an agreement for an automatic monthly bank account or credit card draft. You'll have more control regarding when payments will be made, and it can be helpful in preventing that occasional missed monthly payment.
Another way to consider patients for in-house financing is to subscribe to one of the credit bureaus, such as Experian, TransUnion, or Equifax. If a patient's credit score is higher than 700, then go for it; if it's less than 620, then forget it. Patients with credit scores that are higher than 700 have a proven track record of paying their bills. If a patient does not qualify for financing, then I would highly recommend not offering to go in-house. When patients' credit ratings are that bad, they may have stiffed other companies in the past, and you could be next in line.
For larger, more complex cases, recommending a healthcare installment loan to your patients may be a good choice. Companies such as Lending Tree offer these types of loans. There is an origination fee that can run up to 10%, but the monthly interest rate can be significantly lower than that of a credit card, and there are no major penalties for late payments like the healthcare credit cards impose.
Another option is securing an equity loan or line of credit. These loans are secured by the equity in patients' homes. They can borrow up to 85% of the appraised value minus the mortgage balance, which can free up substantial resources. Because the upfront closing costs can approach those of the original loan on the home, these types of options are primarily reserved for full-mouth rehabilitation or high-end cosmetic cases.
In certain cases in which you have exhausted all possible means of obtaining financing for a patient, you can still consider placing a single filling or doing a quadrant of restorations and then waiting for him or her to pay the account balance in full before performing any further treatment. This way, you will be helping the patient with his or her dental needs, the patient won't be overextending himself or herself, and hopefully, you will eventually get paid for your services.
Patients aren't going to accept your treatment recommendations unless they have a means to pay for your services. Want to see your case acceptance rate soar? By being creative and expanding the financing options available to patients, you can help them get their needed dental treatments performed and increase your profits at the same time.
About the Author
Richard P. Gangwisch, DDS, a master of the Academy of General Dentistry and a diplomate of the American Board of General Dentistry, is a clinical assistant professor at the Dental College of Georgia at Augusta University and maintains a private practice in Lilburn, Georgia.