|This article was submitted to HR by Nancy Kent, president of Mindshare Creative, a marketing communications firm based in Southern California and a consultant to CareCredit. Previously, Kent was president of Primelife, a marketing agency that specialized in creating uniquely effective marketing and training programs for companies with products or services targeting consumers age 40 and older. Correspondence can be addressed to HR or Nancy Kent at .|
We all know that patients are spending more cautiously in today’s sluggish economy. Even when practices are able to get patients in the door for a hearing evaluation and consultation, it is estimated that the average number of patients who actually purchase hearing aids is only 40% to 50%. Of the remaining 50% to 60% of patients leaving the practice tested and not sold, only 3% will return to purchase hearing aids in the future, while as many as 30% will continue to shop and eventually purchase hearing aids from a competitor.
At a time when it’s more challenging than ever to dispense hearing aid technology—a product that many patients would rather not have to buy in the first place—practices need to provide more than hearing solutions; they need to provide financial solutions such as no interest financing in order to place recommended hearing aids within reach of more patients. Giving your patients the opportunity to pay with a financing plan is a proven way to increase the affordability of hearing aid technology by allowing patients to overcome the primary reason many don’t purchase: cost.
Giving Your Patients Financial Flexibility
In most hearing care practices, patients can pay with cash, check, and major credit cards. But in today’s economic environment, many patients would prefer paying over time with a no interest or low interest monthly payment plan that fits into their lifestyle and budget, rather than having to pay the full amount of their hearing aid purchase up front. No interest financing can be an easy way to help more patients and increase acceptance of recommended hearing aid technology.
When patients are able to conveniently pay for hearing aids over time, more are likely to move forward with purchases. In a 2007 patient study conducted by Hiner & Partners Inc, 74% of patients reported that having no interest financing as a payment option made it possible for them to get treatment that they wouldn’t have otherwise been able to attain. And, in a recent survey conducted by Inquire Market Research, 24% of patients stated that without financing, they would have chosen a hearing solution that provided less than optimal results. An additional 20% of those surveyed stated they would have delayed purchasing hearing aids altogether.
No interest financing is a proven promotional strategy that enables patients to move forward with hearing aid purchases immediately while paying over time without incurring interest charges. Typically, the patient must make monthly payments to the financing company and pay off the borrowed amount within a specified time or promotional period in order to avoid any additional costs such as interest or penalties.
In addition to audiology, offering no interest financing is quite common in fields such as dentistry, ophthalmology, and weight loss to help patients manage high medical expenditures. No interest financing allows these practices to help patients receive the health care they need and want immediately when faced with up-front costs such as deductibles, co-payments, and out-of-pocket costs not covered by insurance. This flexible financing option is ideal for patients who appreciate having additional time to pay for their health care, or who prefer to keep their available funds or credit cards for unplanned expenses and household needs.
Maintaining Your Practice’s Financial Health
In addition to making it easier for patients to get recommended hearing aid technology, no interest financing can help keep the practice financially healthy as well. When effectively integrated into the practice, no interest financing has been proven to help increase hearing aid sales and reduce return rates, and it can be a vital component to the practice’s operations in any economy.
When surveyed by Inquire Market Research, many patients stated that they actually looked for practices that offer payment plans when selecting a hearing care professional. They also stated that having a no interest payment option ranked second in importance to achieving quality hearing. In fact, having payment plans was considered more important to many patients than affordably priced hearing aids.
Another often-overlooked advantage of having a no interest financing option is that it can be used as a marketing tool to grow your practice in any economy. Promoting the availability of payment plan options by using attention-grabbing phrases such as “No Interest” or “Low Monthly Payment Options Available” in your advertising and marketing communications makes patients aware that the practice offers this value-added service before they walk in the door. This, in turn, will help to attract more patients to the practice—patients who may have otherwise chosen a competitor.
Integrating No Interest Payment Options in Your Practice
The success of using no interest financing as a payment option in today’s economy revolves around the way it is presented to patients. When a patient or caregiver calls the practice for the first time to make an inquiry or schedule an appointment, they should be informed of the practice’s financial policy, including no interest payment plans. And one of the best ways to convince phone inquirers to become patients is to mention flexible payment options. Information about the availability of no interest financing should also be displayed in the reception patient areas. To maximize its effectiveness, no interest financing should be presented to all patients as a payment option during the consultation. Most patients don’t like to have to ask for financing—and most won’t. They will just say “no” to your recommendations and either walk out the door empty-handed or walk out the door with a hearing aid they may not be happy with over time.
Integrating financing solutions into the presentation and discussion of recommendations and fees early on is imperative in helping patients realize that recommended technology is within their financial reach. It is usually very effective to present the treatment or hearing aid technology cost as a monthly payment, in addition to the total fee. For example, by saying, “This instrument will cost you about $56 a month, or $2,500 total.” This is often more manageable for the patient. Many patients balk at the cost of hearing aids, not because they can’t pay the total cost of technology, but because they are unable to immediately access the necessary cash or do not have enough available credit on their credit cards.
As a dispensing professional, you want what’s best for your patients. That’s why in today’s economy, it’s important to provide solutions that will help patients overcome the financial barrier that stops many from accepting your recommendation. When you find a way to help patients overcome their financial concerns, you can get them on the road to improved hearing health.
Providing payment options that enable your patients to pay for hearing aids over time with convenient, low monthly payments can help them get the recommended hearing care in a way that is more manageable for their budgets.
Citation for this article:
Kent N. Using patient financing options in these challenging times. Hearing Review. 2009;16(11):48-49.