Price transparency isn’t coming to dentistry— it’s here. Do you have a strategy for proving your worth? If so, you can make pricing a cornerstone of your brand—without compromising care or profit.

IF YOU HAVE to ask, you can’t afford it.” This adage is becoming more relevant than ever throughout health care, with changes coming from multiple directions. Price transparency is one of the most urgent things for any doctor to think about and plan for, but let’s be
clear from the outset: It isn’t necessarily about competing on price but rather about creating a simple, singular structure for pricing whose value to patients is clearly articulated. But should you implement it, and how?

Benco Dental’s Kay Huff, a longtime practice coach, cautions doctors that they need to be certain that they’re already effectively communicating the value they provide: “Price transparency isn’t the first piece of the marketing puzzle, or the fiftieth or the hundredth. It’s last. When your brand is strong, being upfront about fees only adds to patient confidence.”

Government-mandated price transparency arrived at hospitals this year, though a recent study in JAMA Internal Medicine indicated that most facilities still aren’t fully complying. Furthermore, an increasing number of today’s consumers—especially Millennials—won’t even consider purchasing from a brand if they have to ask about price; transparent pricing is a prerequisite. Younger consumers also don’t draw lines or make distinctions that previous generations did. To them, shopping for health care isn’t drastically different from buying a car.

Think of price transparency as an opportunity to strengthen your brand by giving you the chance to evaluate your services fairly and articulate their value to your target audience’s demographics, whatever they may be. After all, every vehicle in a dealer’s showroom wears a window sticker clearly displaying the price, whether it’s a $100,000 Porsche or a $30,000 Honda. Both are quality automobiles, but they’re aimed at very different consumers. If low prices mattered most to everyone, highways from sea to sea would be Porsche-free.

While companies like Tend and Smile Direct Club are slowly normalizing price transparency in dentistry, you shouldn’t ignore the smoke just because the fire is only starting. Smile Direct Club spent tens of millions last year on marketing to shout about the price of its direct-to-consumer aligners. As more large players enter the dental space, it won’t take long for patients to start questioning dental-care prices.

I speak from experience. Prior to entering the dental industry, I was the head brand strategist for a vision-care disruptor with more than 700 locations in 40 states. When Warby Parker came along offering $99 complete eyeglasses, many people panicked. But Warby Parker’s website offers a fairly uninspiring statement: “Good Eyewear with Good Outcomes.” For some people, good enough is good enough. My brand, on the other hand, staked its reputation on Premier Eye Exams and a guarantee that patients would see and look great in their glasses—something patients must appreciate, because our annual revenue was about four times that of Warby Parker.

If you’re confident in your fees, patients will be confident too. Therefore, don’t simply post prices, explain them. For something like a crown, tell patients that you have X years of experience… your office employs a high-tech, five-figure CAD/CAM setup for same-day procedures or uses only the best labs… takes extreme care in scanning, materials selection and placement… and offers a spa-like experience for patients the entire time they’re there. Break it down using an infographic or a social media video. The more honest and straightforward you are, the more it will benefit your brand, regardless of whether your patients are Porsche or Honda buyers.

Don’t be afraid of price transparency, but rather see it for what it is: another change in a steadily evolving dental marketplace. Successful brands build loyalty by articulating value propositions their customers believe in. You don’t need to lower your standard of care or even your fees to thrive. You only need to communicate them more compellingly.

LANCE WAGNER is Benco Dental’s Director of Brand and Communications. Previously, he led brand and media strategy for Visionworks, a $1 billion vision-care organization. His media and digital strategy experience spans top national brands in retail and specialty health care including dental, vision and senior living.