In-Office Membership Programs

In-Office Membership Programs

Dentistry is an evolving profession and one topic that continues to come up is the frustration that both providers and patients face with dental insurance. To address this, many of us are searching for ways to get out or stay out of PPO insurance plans. For so long, we felt like we didn’t have a choice except to participate with insurance as a preferred provider in PPO networks. However, we are now learning that there are choices and ways to allow us to remain profitable and grow our practices without subjecting ourselves to the deep discounts of PPO plans.

In-Office Membership Programs are a relatively new concept in dentistry that allow us to reduce insurance dependence and the negative impact it’s having on our practices. These programs allow us to take back control of our practice while continuing to provide quality, affordable dental care.  As a dentist, it’s challenging to provide a high standard of care with the average insurance write off of 45%. Insurance adjustments are overrunning dental practices. Being in-network with insurance companies is actually costing our practices a lot of money. In some situations, we are actually paying to do treatment on a patient. The ADA reported that in 2015, the average overhead of a dental practice was 74%, which means dentists are working too hard for too little, and it’s not going to get any better. Insurance companies continue to shave dollars from payouts so they can compete for large contracts by offering lower premiums. The result is lower reimbursement rates for dentists.

Insurance adjustments in our practices should be thought of as marketing expenses. It’s what we are paying the insurance companies to provide us patients. When we calculate our total adjustments, we discover that we could spend considerably less on other marketing strategies that would provide us with as much or more profit than we see from being in-network with insurance companies.

Implementing in-house membership programs allows us to have something in place to transfer our patients to if/when we start dropping out of insurance networks. Patients can continue coming to our practices even if we are not contracted with their PPO instead of leaving when we resign from their networks.

For dentists that are 100% fee for service, this can be a great way to stay out of insurance networks while continuing to attract new patients. It’s a way to open the door to the growing number of uninsured that are looking for access to quality, affordable dental care. These programs can be a very effective and inexpensive way to market and grow our practices without relying on insurance companies to send patients and dictate fees.

Besides, the fee model is broken! Think about it for a minute – consumers these days prefer subscription based models. This is why businesses like Amazon Prime, Costco and Netflix are thriving and why businesses like Blockbuster went out of business. It’s no different in dentistry. In fact, it has been proven that subscription based patients will bring in 4-26% more revenue for a dental practice. In-office membership programs enable this by allowing patients to purchase monthly or yearly subscriptions for their dental care. They allow patients to receive preventive care and even offer additional loyalty discounts on restorative or cosmetic treatment patients may need or want. They make dentistry clear, concise and affordable for patients while eliminating the hassle of dental insurance. There are no yearly maximums, no frequencies, no limitations, and no waiting periods. They are a direct contract between the patient and the dentist, allowing the dentist to keep 100% of their fees and allowing patients to regain control of their oral health without a third party dictating treatment they can or cannot have.

For dentists, offering in-office membership programs can be a great way to grow a large patient base of loyal customers. Membership patients give us the assurance that we will see them every six months for routine visits. They make scheduling recare appointments easier and decrease the number of no shows and cancellations in our hygiene schedules. Dentists will also notice an increase in overall case acceptance, as these patients are going to be incentivized to accept proposed treatment because of the discounts they receive.

In-office membership programs can also be a great way to reactivate lost patients back into our practices. After all, so many patients are leaving through the back doors of dental offices with dentists oblivious to their true attrition rate. Why are these patients leaving? Often, it comes down to patients not being able to afford dental care. These programs are a great way to reach back out to those patients who already know and trust their dentists and have already formed relationships with them, motivating them to return to the practice.

In my experience with the SmileAdvantage in-office membership program, I have noticed that patients respond well and love our practice’s savings plan. For those without insurance, it’s a no brainer to sign up. Even patients with dental insurance are often frustrated with their coverage and looking for an alternative to turn to. Our SmileAdvantage program provides them with a solution! The program excites a lot of our patients and we have found that current patients have become huge advocates of our program, helping to promote it to family and friends within the community. The program has proven to be a great way to generate more internal referrals for our practice.

To summarize, offering an in-office membership program can be the answer to a lot of our problems and headaches while offering us a way to grow our practices and become more profitable. These programs allow our teams to focus on excellent customer service and deliver quality, affordable dental care without being dependent and consumed with dental insurance. It’s what a lot of our patients are asking for and what so many people in our communities are turning to. More dentists are starting to implement these in their practices as a way to set themselves apart. Stay ahead of the competition and offer this very valuable patient service that is proven to provide positive results for both your practice and your patients!


To learn more about SmileAdvantage contact Katie Franklin at