3 Customer Engagement Strategies for DSOs to Improve the Patient Financial Experience

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Nearly 90% of all customers say the experience a company provides is as important as its products or services – the highest it’s ever been, according to Salesforce’s 2022 State of the Connected Customer report. 1

As patients are becoming more like consumers of healthcare, weighing their various options before making informed choices related to their care and budget, DSOs must focus on their care journey and pay close attention to the payment process – which, if lacking, can seriously hinder patient loyalty.

Here are three customer engagement strategies for DSO leaders to stay competitive and retain patients for the long-term.

Be Transparent About Costs

With out-of-pocket dental care costs on the rise, patients are taking on more financial responsibility for their healthcare and considering their treatments more carefully.

The recent Dental Lifetime of Care study 2 conducted by Synchrony revealed that more than half of consumers expressed that dental care is not affordable, and for those without dental insurance, that number rose to 75%. This is not surprising when you consider that dental care for the average adult can cost $51,000 for single coverage and up to $95,000+ for couple and family coverage over a lifetime, according to the study. These numbers are only the tip of the iceberg. Additional care, like dental implants, orthodontia or more complex needs, could cost tens of thousands of dollars per procedure.

With treatments feeling financially out of reach, many are deciding to forgo treatment altogether. In fact, 92% of Dental Lifetime of Care respondents say they would consider holding off on general dental care because of cost. When patients are unable to afford care, providers are impacted as well, by delayed time to payment and shrinking patient pools.

To overcome these financial barriers, DSOs must engage their patients about costs and payment options as early as possible, addressing needs, preferences, and pain points. Being upfront and transparent about costs throughout the care journey shows you’re trustworthy and care about their overall wellbeing — including both their physical and financial health — ultimately leading to better patient loyalty.

Utilize Technology

Thanks to the internet, people can access countless options and make decisions about their purchases and services based on what is most convenient and best fits their wants and needs. This is especially true in healthcare. With the shift to digital platforms and processes across industries, we’ve seen patients become true consumers of healthcare, and they are now looking to dental providers to give them the experience, care and service they need in a way that is convenient for them.

To meet these modern consumer expectations, DSOs can integrate technology into payment processes. This can be anything from an online portal to view statements and make payments, to a QR code in the lobby leading to an online application for a health and wellness credit card.

A PYMNTS survey 3 found retailers believe convenience and frictionless digital payments are essential to retaining customers. Key features include access to mobile shopping apps, at 81%, and alternative payment methods, at 76%. Providing tools that can help remove financial barriers to planning for, receiving and paying for care is a crucial part of meeting patient needs and fostering patient loyalty.

Provide Financial Options

Since insurance doesn’t always cover the dental care that patients want and need for themselves and their families, financing options are important to providing access to care.

To avoid patients forgoing care because of cost, it’s important for dental providers to provide information on all available financing options for their patients, which may include:

  • Health Savings Accounts (HSA): Available to those with a qualifying high-deductible health plan to save pre-tax dollars specifically for health care expenses.
  • Flexible Spending Accounts (FSA): A pre-tax saving account that can be used for health-related expenses like copays, deductibles and prescriptions.
  • Savings Accounts: Even a basic savings account can help set aside money for costs not covered by insurance.

Another great option for patients is a health and wellness credit card, like CareCredit, a Synchrony solution. With CareCredit, patients can use promotional financing to split out-of-pocket costs across monthly payments that work with their budget. Patients can apply within the dental practice, on any smart device, or over the phone, with no impact to their credit score. A credit decision is made within minutes and, if approved, patients can use their account to pay for their treatment right away. Health and wellness credit cards like CareCredit have a wide range of financing options available, from 6 to 60 months, depending on the purchase amount and need. Additionally, once a patient uses CareCredit, they can use it again and again for their household’s dental and other health and wellness expenses, giving them the confidence to pursue all their health and wellness needs.

Including third-party financing solutions within your payment selections expands the options for patients and empowers them to choose the solution that best fits their budgets and needs. DSOs and dental practices also receive payment in two business days from transactions using CareCredit, alleviating a lot of the staff burden on billing and collections.

In Conclusion

For DSO leaders looking to integrate these engagement strategies and remove friction from the patient payment process, partnering with a third-party financial services provider like Synchrony is a key solution. Synchrony helps DSOs equip their partners with the modern, innovative data tools and services to meet the demands of today’s consumers, and its CareCredit health and wellness credit card enables patients to better plan and pay for all their dental needs, from braces to Invisalign to a root canal.

DSOs thrive when quality care is matched with a quality experience that patients value. Invest in your patient experience and you will reap the rewards.

Written by Matt Muscolo. Matt brings more than 20 years of sales, product, and relationship management experience to his role as SVP and General Manager of Dental Practices at Synchrony. In his role, Matt is responsible for the development and execution of Synchrony’s dental industry strategy, including Synchrony’s leading health and wellness solution, CareCredit. Matt joined CareCredit in 2008 after 5 years with GE Money. He has a master’s degree in international business from California State University – Dominguez Hills and currently lives with his family in Southern California.

  1. Salesforce. May 10, 2022. State of the Connected Customer.
  2. Synchrony. October 4, 2023. Dental Lifetime of Care Study.
  3. PYMNTS & ACI Worldwide. December 2022. Navigating Big Retail’s Digital Shift: The New Payments Strategy Evolution.