Patient financing is one of the greatest challenges for dental implant practices. Unfortunately, there is a correlation between a patient’s need for implants and the ability to pay for care – those in greatest need often have the fewest financial resources. This is a source of consistent frustration for many offices. In fact, every day offices get to the finish line presenting treatment plans and have things stall out when numbers enter the discussion. If things go sideways when discussing finances, it’s terribly difficult to rekindle the conversation. Typically, the patient leaves without signing up for care and the office is out the time and effort it took with that patient. It’s a lose-lose situation.
But don’t lose hope. A practice can make that scenario a thing of the past through three easy steps:
- Get permission for a soft credit pull early in the process.
- Build the emotional buy-in.
- Have the right patient financing partners.
Get permission for a soft credit pull early in the process.
There is no excuse for not requesting permission to make a soft credit pull on behalf of a patient early in the process. It is best done in the new patient paperwork, but it can also be done at other points in the process. Simply have it as a check box on an intake form with a brief explanation why it is to the benefit of the patient.
Most prospective implant patients know they’ll be paying out of pocket implants. An early credit pull does them a service by allowing the practice to have all the information available during the Report of Findings (assuming the practice uses the standard two-day sales process). Additionally, it allows the practice to present a cash option, a short-term in-office financing option (6 months or shorter), and a more traditional patient financing option during that presentation. It also allows the office to eliminate any of those options if the credit score doesn’t warrant it. Finally, it avoids surprises and embarrassing conversations if the credit score is below what the patient believes it to be.
Build the emotional buy-in.
Far too often, practices don’t spend the time really getting to the root of the motivation of a prospective patient prior to presenting a $50,000 treatment plan for two full arches. Then, they are surprised that the patient doesn’t move forward with care.
It is critical to know that patients do not explore dental implants because of the tooth or teeth that are missing. They explore dental implants because they are embarrassed to smile in pictures, because they are afraid to go out in public, because they didn’t get that job they wanted, or some other reason. Every patient has their “Golden Why.” A good patient consultation spends the time necessary to understand the patient’s Golden Why, to present a Better Future for the patient once they have implants, and paints a picture of how the patient can transition from the current state to that desirable potential future.
Why is emotional buy-in a topic in an article about patient financing? Simple. A motivated patient finds a way to get the care they need. If it means cutting luxuries, saving up, utilizing a patient financing company, or getting loans from family or friends, they’ll do it. The more the practice spends building the emotional buy-in upfront, the more engaged the patient will be in figuring out finances. If the office already has the right financing partners in place and is still consistently struggling getting patients to move forward with care, it should look into how well it is building emotional buy-in through the process.
Have the right financial partners.
There are two tiers of patient financing: Traditional and Poor Credit.
Nearly all offices will have at least one relationship with a company in the Traditional category. GreenSky, CareCredit, and LendingUSA are among the most common providers of Traditional patient financing. Typically, these lenders will all fund patients with credit scores 620 and above and have comparable interest rates. GreenSky does seem to be a preferred lender for many implant offices based on the interest rates it charges patients, ability to finance for up to 7 years (lowering the patient payment significantly), and its willingness to finance up to $65,000 for some patients. That said, it is important for an office to have at least two option in the Traditional category to ensure the best financial package for patients with good credit.
Very few practices have relationships with companies that offer patient financing for individuals with poor credit. This is a major mistake. There are a significant number of patients who need dental work but do not have the credit score to qualify with a Traditional patient financing firm. Rather than turning those patients away, savvy practices have options. While there are many options available, the two that will be highlighted are ClearGage and Denefits.
ClearGage operates like a Traditional patient financing option in that funds are remitted to the office shortly after the patient agrees to move forward with care. Anyone can be funded but the amount paid out is discounted based on the patient’s credit worthiness and the term of repayment. The firm will fund up to $7,500 in case value with some restrictions, so it is more ideal for a patient receiving a single implant or other similarly small procedure, but it’s better than not being able to move forward with care at all. It is important to note that there is a monthly charge to have a relationship with ClearGage that is waived each month that a patient is financed through the firm. Obviously, there are some characteristics to the relationship that are less desirable than a traditional option but if a practice sees a lot of low credit score patients with case values less than $7,500, it can be a good option.
The second Poor Credit option to consider is Denefits. Denefits essentially operates like a third-party guaranteed in-house financing option. Unlike Traditional patient financing options and firms like ClearGage, Denefits does not fund the care upfront. Instead, the office is paid over the course of the payment plan. The main benefit of using Denefits over just financing in-house is that Denefits will guarantee a percentage of the payment if certain criteria are met. All patients are accepted and the practice is the ultimate determiner of who will be financeable through the firm.
While not all patients will be financeable with the Poor Credit options laid out, it certainly increases the number of patients who can receive care versus simply having one or two options from the Traditional category.
In the end, there are many individuals who would benefit greatly from dental implants or other restorative procedures. These procedures are expensive and require a patient be able to pay for these elective services. All too often, practices find themselves engaging with prospective patients only to have patient finances derail the treatment. That shouldn’t be the case. While there may be a small number of patients who still cannot be served after implementing these three tips, nearly all should be. By having the right financial partners, engaging to understand credit worthiness early in the process, and really building the emotional buy-in, practices should be able to see their patient financing issues a thing of the past.