How to Pay Your Hygienists When You Have a Dental Membership Plan
Dental membership plans are becoming increasingly popular as an alternative to traditional dental insurance. They offer patients an affordable way to receive preventive care and provide a predictable stream of revenue for dental practices. However, when it comes to compensating hygienists while utilizing a dental membership plan, there are some unique challenges to consider. In this blog post, we'll explore some simple solutions.
Payment structures matter
How you structure your hygienists’ pay can be affected by membership plans. If you are paying your hygienists on a daily or hourly rate, a membership plan won’t affect their salaries, since the hygienist gets paid the same amount regardless of production. This is the easiest way to pay hygienists when implementing a membership plan, since payment and the plans are not dependent on each other. However, if there are lots of gaps in your schedule, you may be paying your hygienist to not work.
If your hygienists are nonexempt employees, federal law requires that they be paid minimum wage (at least) for the hours they work. Adding a commission to the hourly rate can be a big incentive for hygienists to join your practice, and take more appointments. The practice sets a daily revenue goal, and commission is paid for anything that exceeds that goal. Generally, hygienists working on commission want to receive 30-40% percent of daily production. For example, if a hygienist was on a combined wage plus commission pay schedule, they may be getting paid 30% above the production goal. If the daily production goal was $2,000 and the hygienist produced $2,200, the excess would earn the hygienist $60 on top of their base pay. For hygienists working on straight commission, it's usually easiest to pay commission off of production, at a rate of around 28-33%. This can get a little tricky when discounted fees or promotions are run — or, when dental membership plan patients come in for their cleanings.
Solutions for payment
While dental membership plans can be incredibly beneficial, they do prompt some head scratching when it comes to paying your hygienists if they are on a production-based payment model (or hybrid model with combined hourly wages and production bonuses). While the practice collects membership plan fees, the date of treatment won’t always align with the payment date, which can be tricky for billing purposes. If production is no longer in play, how is that commission calculated?
One way to solve this conundrum is to use the average. Make sure the cost of the services that your membership plan covers is equal or greater to the annual membership plan price. While aligning your dental membership plan fees with production is the most straightforward approach to commission payments, communication is key in ensuring that everyone understands plan pricing, and that they feel they are being compensated fairly. Another approach is to discuss a standard reimbursement rate. This option gives you more flexibility to adjust plan prices without affecting the hygienists’ pay. However, in this case, if you do decide to decrease your plan pricing, you may end up paying commission out of your practice revenue. When setting dental membership fees, you’ll want to leave room for adjustments.
Practices can also consider a hybrid approach that combines the two strategies. Payments could be fixed for certain services like cleanings, while variable and dependent on the membership plan pricing for X-rays or fluoride treatments.
Whichever approach you choose, it is important to reemphasize that communication is paramount. You’ll need to have clear communication with your hygiene team about how they will be paid, and about any fluctuations in payments—or you’re going to have a very frustrated team.
Provide training and support
The success of your dental membership plan largely rests on your team’s buy-in to the concept and how well they integrate it into their workflow. Ensuring your team understands the ins and outs of the plan positions them to promote it to patients effectively. Since hygienists often have the patient’s ear more than the doctor or the front-desk team, having them serve as promoters can get a lot of patients on board.
For this to be effective, hygienists need to feel confident about the plan and comfortable talking about it. Ensure your team understands the value of in-house membership plans, and that they can communicate it effectively to patients, explaining how it can benefit their oral health with pricing that's transparent and affordable. b
A dental membership plan is a wonderful thing to offer your patients, and it doesn’t have to be complicated to implement or compensate for. With open communication, patients, hygienists and practices alike can all benefit from in-house dental membership plan. Not sure how to get started? Kleer can help. Click here to request your free consultation.