dental patients can't afford treatmentOne of the greatest challenges dentists have always faced is what to do about the patient who genuinely wants to participate in getting the dental care you recommend, but they honestly can’t afford it. You don’t want to turn these patients away; however, you do need to be compensated fairly for your services. Also, you don’t want to get into the lending business.

Traditionally the most common solution has been to direct patients to a third-party lender. Lately many of these lenders seem to be tightening their eligibility requirements and more and more patients are being denied credit for treatment they really want.

Either that, or the patient is simply uncomfortable about going into debt with these institutions.

Here is one possible solution I learned about from a dentist who has been using it successfully in his practice with patients he really wants to help.

First of all, they ask the patient what amount they feel they would be able to handle on a monthly basis (you will often be surprised by how much that is). Then the practice offers to start a pre-payment plan. The patient makes the monthly payments, and then usually around the time of their next hygiene appointment when a significant portion has been paid, the treatment begins. This way the dentist doesn’t deliver services until the patient has already made a significant financial commitment. This way the risk is minimized and the patient gets the care they need - on very agreeable terms.

For many practices in these economic times, you sometimes have to get creative about helping patients find a way. I am sharing this example because I really like the spirit this dentist shows in creating a workable solution to help his patients afford the great care he can deliver in a way that is responsible for both parties. It’s a perfect illustration of how in this profession; you can do good while doing well. But this is just one example. I would be interested in hearing from you on this. What strategies have you used to help patients find a way to make it work financially?

(Click this link to read more dental practice management articles by Imtiaz Manji.)


Commenter's Profile Image Robert Christian
October 25th, 2013
...and if they can't keep up with the bi-weekly or monthly payments you will know if they are credit worthy. Better to offer this than to say "no" to them. I like it.
Commenter's Profile Image Kay Henry
October 26th, 2013
I'll try it; we have many patients that want it and can't afford it. Thanks for the suggestion!
Commenter's Profile Image Barry Polansky
October 26th, 2013
Money may seem like a limiting force...but sometimes we can use time to our advantage. In many cases treatment can be done over time which makes it more affordable. This is where treatment planning comes in. Treatment can be phased --- Phase I treatment can be completed and the patient can be put into holding pattern. When Phase II treatment(definitive restorative) is affordable it to can be sequenced. The real question is what to do when the patient can't afford Phase I treatment which disappointingly is becoming quite prevalent in our society. Then the dentists must make decisions about getting the patient through Phase I. Most dentists are faced with these decisions---I'm not sure if there are easy answers...but I'm sure if you read Peter Drucker the answers are there. Barry
Commenter's Profile Image Cary Dunne
November 21st, 2013
As an interesting tangent, when I sold my Northwest Ohio practice to move to Southern California it turned out that I had more in prepaid accounts than I did in accounts receivables. Not everyone can afford dentistry, but if they trust you and want your good dentistry, they are willing to pay in advance.
Commenter's Profile Image Maria J.
October 25th, 2016
I like this idea. A lot of times our patients give us a down payment of half of the cost of the treatment
Commenter's Profile Image Maria J.
October 25th, 2016
I apologize, I hit the wrong button. We offer the patients to use their own credit card to make monthly payments. They sign a contract and give us permission to charge their credit cards an amount that we both agree so therefore we can avoid sending them monthly statements.