a. What are some financial considerations?
Several important financial questions need to be answered when considering a portable dental program or practice:
- Does the setting, frequency of use, and extent of needed treatment capabilities dictate a lower cost approach for portable equipment vis-à-vis a more expensive but more durable and typically more efficient mobile dental system? Can portable and mobile dental approaches and capabilities be combined for maximum flexibility such as those described in chapter 4?
- Are there viable lease/purchasing agreements and options?
- Are there warranties for repair or equipment maintenance?
- Are there special fundraising or grant opportunities within the community to help secure capitol for equipment, supplies, and instruments or for operational expenses?
Many portable dental programs have been funded by grants from federal agencies such as HRSA's Maternal and Child Health Bureau or CDC's Division of Oral Health, state or local health departments, community foundations or other local resources.
If you plan to bill Medicaid or other insurance programs, remember that it takes a while to apply for and receive a provider number if you don't already have one. Some hygienists who work in states that allow direct reimbursement to dental hygienists have experienced problems getting provider numbers, or having private insurance companies send the reimbursement check to the beneficiary instead. Sometimes this can be difficult to collect from the patient or family.
A number of financial benefits are available to practitioners who establish a portable/mobile practice for underserved populations.
"Consider the tax benefits: write-offs in a portable practice if based out of the home include a percent of phone, utilities, rent or mortgage, furniture, and the like. For the vehicle used to transport the practice, a percent of mileage, gas, maintenance, repairs, licenses, and insurance can be written off. … the set-up costs are low compared with a traditional practice … and overhead is minimal. Free use of facilities, no expenses for time off, and other advantages add up to low operating costs… no more unproductive time waiting for a patient to come to the office."
Moore, P. The portable alternative: selecting the right equipment for the nontraditional practice setting. Special Care in Dentistry, Sept-Oct 1989; 152-154.