Raise your fees without fear of losing patients

By Sally McKenzie, CEO Printer Friendly Version

You’re finally going to do it. After years of keeping your fees steady, you’ve decided it’s time to increase them. But even though you know it’s the right move for your practice’s financial health, you’re still a little uneasy. You’re worried patients will opt to get their dental treatment elsewhere once they learn about the increase, which is the reason you’ve kept your fees the same for so long in the first place.

Sure, raising fees can be a little nerve-wracking, but it’s an important part of running a successful dental practice. And while you might be worried about how your patients will react, the truth is they actually expect an increase in price from time to time. Most patients understand you need to make investments to provide them with the best care possible. If you don’t raise your fees, you’ll never be able to afford the upgrades that improve the patient experience, whether that’s purchasing new technology or making enhancements to the office itself. And when you can’t make those type of improvements, that’s when you’ll start to lose patients to the practice down the street.

Just remember this: Spending $4 or $5 more for a procedure won’t hurt their pocketbook, but that extra money will do wonders for your bottom line and your ability to provide excellent patient care.

Now that you’re ready to make fee increases, you’re probably wondering the best way to do it. Here are my tips to help you confidently raise prices without worrying about losing patients:

Start by establishing a solid fee for the services you offer. How? Determine exactly how much it costs you to perform the dentistry. Once you know that, you can also factor in your patient base, expenses, debt, your level of experience and overhead costs.

Know your overhead expenses. Speaking of overhead, it’s important to make sure yours is in-line with industry benchmarks. It’s easy for overhead costs to get out of control, and when that happens it holds your practice back and leads to stressful days for you and your team members. These are the benchmarks you should know:

Laboratory: 10%
Dental and office supplies: 7%
Rent: 5%
Employee salaries: 19-22%
Payroll taxes and benefits: 3-5% of collections

Looking at these numbers and wondering why yours are so much higher? It’s likely because you’re dealing with broken systems. Make a commitment to fixing those systems and you’ll see efficiencies improve while overhead costs go down.

Establish goals. When you’re ready to set or adjust your fees, it’s important to think about what kind of lifestyle you want to live, and how much money you’ll need to bring in to make that lifestyle a reality. That means determining how many weeks you want to work each year, how many hours per week you want to work and how many patients you want to see each day. Once you have those numbers, you can set fees that put you in the best position to meet your goals.

Focus on patient relationships. Patients are more likely to stay loyal to your dental practice if they feel a connection with you and your team members. That’s why it’s so important to get to know patients and to start building connections from the beginning. Let patients know you care about them as people, and that you’re not just focused on selling them expensive dentistry.

To do this, I suggest you take the time to chat with patients while you’re chairside. Ask them about their families and their jobs. Find out what their oral health goals are and let them know how you can help them meet those goals. Provide education about their condition, the treatment you’re recommending and the importance of maintaining their oral health. Making this part of the appointment will not only make your job more rewarding, it will help keep patients loyal—even when the price of dentistry goes up.

Plan for fee increases. After you establish a solid fee structure for your services, put a plan in place to adjust them twice a year. That way, you know you’re raising fees on a regular basis. I suggest you increase fees 2% the first time and 3% the second time, for a total of 5% a year. These aren’t huge increases, which means patients will barely notice the higher costs while you still get a nice boost to your bottom line.

Avoid the fee ceiling trap. Not sure what I’m talking about? Let me explain. Don’t attempt to establish your office fee schedule based on what some third-party payer reimburses at 65% of the 85th percentile. Instead, base fees on practice data and the goals you’ve set.

Raising your fees is an important part of owning a successful dental practice—no matter how uncomfortable it might make you. Keeping prices the same year after year will only hold your practice back and might even cost you patients in the long run. When you establish a solid fee schedule and then plan for adjustments, your practice will thrive.

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Interested in speaking to Sally about your practice concerns? Email sallymck@mckenziemgmt.com
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