Josie Hutchings reflects on how considering value rather than cost may help to guide dentists wondering whether they and their patients are best served by NHS dentistry, private practice or a combination of both.
In everyday language cost and value are often interchangeable; however, when it comes to running a customer-oriented business, these two terms mean quite different things. Cost is simple: how much will a crown cost me? Value, on the other hand, is not a number, but rather is about the usefulness or desirability of a service (in this case dentistry). Think: what is a crown worth? Here, patients will be thinking subjectively about, for example, the value of saving a tooth, the levels of service, trust and expertise they have experienced and the confidence they have in the completed restoration.
With this in mind, let’s look at some of the more significant aspects of dental practice that can be considered in terms of value rather than cost, the former of which is more important to your future than you might imagine.
Service with a smile
What do you consider to be good level of service? You can’t put a figure on it, but there certainly is very good value in offering good customer care. We all want to be seen quickly, dealt with courteously, open the practice door into a clean, inviting and professional environment, and feel comfortable and confident that we are in safe hands.
Each of these, when performed or delivered well, is worth ‘its weight in gold’, to coin a phrase.
All of this takes place before patients have even stepped into the surgery, so just imagine the implications for the business, whether private or NHS, if service falls below par.
Patients have expectations, as do dental professionals. Dentists and their teams want to provide the very best possible care. Within the NHS framework that is predominantly, but not exclusively, focused on delivering a high level of treatment as cost-effectively as possible and, for some patients, this makes them happy. Others, however, might be looking to expand their dental horizons, perhaps asking about treatments not necessarily available on the NHS, when it isn’t deemed clinically necessary. Take, for example, the request for a white filling where clinically an amalgam would suffice, or treatments entirely beyond the scope of government-funded dentistry such as cosmetically-focused orthodontics and implants. How, if at all, are you going to meet such expectations; will it be by offering added value?
Most dentists offer some form of mixed practice. Few will turn away an NHS patient asking for a little extra that can only be addressed privately. Mixed treatment plans can be a blessing for both the dentist and patient, allowing the dentist to address essential clinical needs, at the same time as putting a smile on their patient’s face.
Building on the level of trust achieved and service already delivered, offering treatment options is certainly added value. So it’s definitely worth considering expanding what you provide your patients with.
The question then becomes this: do you want to expand the private dentistry element in your practice, to be able to offer a wider range of treatment options, and better satisfy patient expectations?
A matter of time
Some dentists manage perfectly well to deliver what they want to within the time frame of their working day, while others struggle.
Take, for example, preventive dentistry. Educating patients about their role in oral healthcare is of great value all round, since a good home care regimen will go a long way to achieving and maintaining healthy mouths long-term.
However, being time-poor is common among dental professionals and effective preventive dentistry does tend to require longer appointments. If this is too great a task under NHS arrangements in your practice, then the private route offers a possible solution to this challenge.
Handle with care
Think about what you want for you and your patients. Is it shorter waiting lists? To spend more time on patient education? To offer a greater choice of treatments? To do the dentistry you were trained to do to a high standard? To have access to more high-tech equipment to help with diagnosis? Or perhaps you’re happy with the status quo.
In the right hands, NHS dentistry is certainly not inferior to private treatment, but the latter does offer greater possibilities in terms of, for example, treatment options and materials that can be used, with more opportunity to satisfy the expectations of patients. It also offers the chance to provide service value of the type patients receive and expect from other professionals such as lawyers, accountants, architects, vets, etc.
Considering the added-value you would like to offer your patients, alongside financial considerations, may well help you to gain considerable insight into whether NHS, private or mixed practice is the right route for you to achieve your professional goals, as well as personal fulfilment and satisfaction.
About Practice Plan
Practice Plan is the UK's leading provider of custom-branded dental membership plans. Whether you're planning a conversion from the NHS, looking to introduce a plan into an established practice or considering changing from another plan provider, we can help you take your practice where you want it to go.
Visit them at the Dentistry Show 2015 Stand -G85 + J50 or visit www.practiceplan.co.uk