Are Your Fees Too Low?
Many dentists I work with don’t want to talk about adjusting their fees. They’re afraid they’ll lose patients if they set their fees too high, so they opt to keep them exactly where they are.
While this might seem like a good way to keep your schedule full, trust me, it’s actually holding your practice back. If your fees stay the same from year to year, you likely don’t have the money to make necessary practice updates, whether that means investing in new technology or paying for team training. Skimping in these areas hurts the overall patient experience, and that makes patients more likely to leave your practice than a small $4 or $5 fee increase.
Remember that where you set your fees directly impacts your practice’s success. If they’re too low, you’ll struggle to make ends meet. I want your practice to thrive. Here’s how to tell if your fees might be too low and what you can do to get them where they should be.
You haven’t raised your fees in years. If this is the case in your practice, there’s a pretty good chance you’re undercharging, which could be costing your practice big. Let’s say you’re undercharging patients by about 7%. That doesn’t seem like a lot, right? Unfortunately it translates into thousands of dollars in lost revenue every year. And if you’re undercharging by as much as 50% (which many dentists are), your practice is taking a serious financial beating.
Now that I’ve got your attention, let’s talk about how to make fee adjustments. You have to base adjustments on logic; don’t let guilt or fear of losing patients keep you from raising fees when it’s time. Put a system in place to ensure you set up a fee structure that’s fair to both you and your patients. I recommend establishing a solid fee for each service and then adjusting the fee twice a year. Make the first fee increase 2% and the second 3% for an annual yearly increase of 5%. While this might not seem like a large increase, you’ll certainly notice the difference in your bottom line – without putting a large financial burden on your patients.
Your fees are the lowest in your community. You might think this is a great way to attract new patients to your practice, but it really isn’t. The truth is, the fees you set send current and potential patients a message about your practice. So if your practice happens to offer the lowest fees in the area, it’s the perfect target for price shoppers – not patients who are looking for a dental home.
If you haven’t already, now is a great time to find out how your fees compare to other dentists in your town. You can often find this information online or through your local dental society. If you discover your fees are the lowest, it might be time to consider an adjustment.
You haven’t researched the demographics in your area. Before setting or adjusting your fees, it’s important to contact your local chamber of commerce to collect information about your area’s demographics and income level. Your fees should be in line with the community you serve as well as reflect the level of service your practice offers.
You’re not meeting your financial goals. If you’re not bringing enough money in, not only does it keep you from updating your practice and investing in new technology, it also keeps you from meeting your personal goals. That’s why it’s so important to think about the lifestyle you want to lead and how many hours you want to work to get there before you set your fees. Having a clear vision and goals, both personally and professionally, will help you determine how much money you need to bring in each month, and that of course will help you establish your fees.
Your fees aren’t consistent. I’ve worked with dentists who opt to set their fees too low for certain services and too high for others. These dentists might keep hygiene fees lower than they should but charge a higher rate for crowns, for example. The problem? Rather than leading to practice growth, this confusing structure only serves to annoy patients. Base your fees on data from the community you serve as well as your goals and you’ll get much better results.
I know the thought of raising fees sends most dentists into a cold sweat, but it shouldn’t. Setting solid fees and adjusting them when it’s time really is an important part of growing your practice. Do your research, determine your goals and then establish the appropriate fees. If you provide exceptional care and show patients the value of dentistry and the services you provide, small fee increases won’t scare them away. In fact, most patients expect fee increases from time to time.
Still not comfortable adjusting your fees? Contact me and I’ll provide a Fee Analysis to help get you started.
Next week: Ready to raise your fees? Follow these tips
For additional information on this topic and more, visit my blog: The Lighter Side
Interested in speaking to me about your practice concerns? Email email@example.com
A Case for Treatment Planning
Training Case Files #TA397
Treatment Acceptance Training is designed to give the participant a “big picture” view of what to present and how to set the stage for improved treatment acceptance. “Molly” (fictious name), Treatment Coordinator for a two-doctor general practice, decided to take the course because her acceptance numbers were low (70%) and she wanted to know what she should do to bring the numbers up to 85%.
The practice demographics report showed a large percentage of the patients were seniors and it was assumed by the young doctors and Molly that the older patients did not want any aesthetics, just the cheapest care.
Molly reported that the doctors only presented what they diagnosed as the best course of treatment, and often didn’t suggest implants or veneers or even crowns because they felt certain the older patients would not be able to afford the expense.
Many older adults are on a fixed income, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they want the cheapest care. After taking a closer look at the psychographic report of the zip codes and locations of the age groups, it was discovered that many of the senior patients came from higher income areas or areas where there were upscale shopping centers and country clubs. This does not necessarily mean they have a lot of money to spend on cosmetic dentistry, but it indicates that this group has some discretionary income and may desire a healthy, active lifestyle.
It is true that many older, retired adults who are on Medicare have to pay out-of-pocket for routine dental care – but diagnosing the pocket book is not the best way to present dental treatment to this group.
What patients want is options for their care so they can make educated decisions based on their health, lifestyle and aesthetic desires. A more personalized approach to their treatment options should be addressed, illustrating function, longevity of the treatment, oral health status and beliefs about oral health and the relationship to physical health.
For instance, the case for patient “Betty G.” Betty was 82 years old, widowed, in good health, and had been coming to the practice every six months for years for her examination and prophy. She came in for a limited oral evaluation after breaking an upper front tooth. The tooth tested vital and the best course of treatment was an all ceramic or porcelain to metal crown. She had most of her natural teeth, though they were yellowed, and her periodontal condition was healthy.
In the past she would have been presented the treatment plan for just a crown on the tooth in question, but today Molly gave her more options from the doctor and took the time to explain the pros and the cons for the treatment, including which would last the longest and what she would be able to chew. Betty did not choose the cheapest option; she chose the one that was best suited for her. She also asked about replacing a missing bicuspid, because when she smiled she could see the space in the mirror and she had recently met a nice gentleman at the social club and didn’t want him to think she was “a toothless old hag”.
Molly reported to me that it was the first time she had actually noticed who Betty was as a person, and not just an older patient in the practice. From that point on, Molly got to know her patients by considering not only the cost but the patient’s desires and beliefs, what was happening in their lives, and their past and present dental and medical histories.
At her last report, Molly’s treatment acceptance numbers were at 80%. But even better, she felt more connected to her patients and considered herself more of a treatment counselor than coordinator – bringing more joy and purpose to her role in the practice.
To improve your skills as a Treatment Coordinator, take a step in the right direction by calling McKenzie Management today. You can also view the details of the Treatment Acceptance Training Program HERE.
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