11.27.09 Issue #403 Forward This Newsletter To A Colleague

Belle DuCharme CDPMA
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Financial 101 for 2010

Numbers are the goal for any business, and dental practices are no exception. Dentists are healthcare providers with caring natures, but they are also business people with obligations to pay mortgages or a lease, staff, suppliers, service people and the list goes on. Why then are many dentists still giving away valuable services or discounting their services below market value?

The Front Office Training for Dr. B’s practice revealed why the office rarely reached practice goals, even though the doctor’s schedule and the hygiene schedule were always booked for the day.

  • She gave senior discounts of 10% for all services, including hygiene.
  • She did not charge for dental examinations and that included new patient comprehensive examinations.
  • Emergency appointments were at no charge.
  • She had not raised her UCR fees for two years.
  • She had 18% monies in 90 day plus accounts receivables.

Dr. B. looked at the list as a kindness or customer service to offer discounts and free examinations, when in actuality it is a broken financial issue for the practice. Let’s first look at item #1, senior discounts.  A demographic report from the software revealed that over 50% of the practice was over 60 years of age. So 50% of revenue generated by this group was getting 10% off of their services.  After completing a fee analysis for the area, it was noted that Dr. B. was charging below the usual and customary fee range for the demographic area. Not only was she discounting her fees but she was charging less than her competitors for the same services. 

Item #2 is more distressing as a dental examination is one of the most valuable and payable services the practice can offer. It is required by law that a dentist examine a patient before treatment is performed. The comprehensive examination is the time devoted to getting to know your patient and creating a record of a complete analysis of their existing health and recommended course of treatment.  A comprehensive examination is a sure bet for payout from most insurance companies and is the standard of care expected by the industry.  Insurance company’s payout is usually twice a year for periodic examinations which insures patient acceptance of this charge.

Item #3 was originally put into place to attract new patients to the practice. By not charging for emergency appointments, the phone rang off the hook and the practice had at least 4 emergency patients a day. The idea was to sell those patients on a comprehensive exam and x-rays. However, the only group this marketing tactic attracted was those that did not value their dental health and had no means to pay. The system also upset the regular schedule on a daily basis and prevented cash paying patients from receiving timely appointments.

Item #4 was explained as a way to help those that were affected by the recession.  Patients do not know whether your fees are up to date or not.  It is up to the doctor and the team to bring value to the services offered. Discounts and charging way under market for your services only demean your services.  The practice costs go up like any other business and the fees charged should be able to cover the expenses incurred for the practice. If your fees are usual and customary for the area then you can occasionally choose to grant charity to a patient without affecting the entire practice production.

Item #5 revealed that even though Dr. B. was kind and generous the patients still balked at paying and that is why her 90 day accounts receivables was about 6-8 percent higher than what is considered healthy.  Some people will complain no matter what they pay, and if it is free they will not value what they receive and will become suspicious as to why it is free.

The Front Office Advanced Business Training course offered solutions to each one of the items affecting the practice production and collections. New scripting and plans to implement a system to raise fees, reduce patient courtesies (discounts) and deliver value to services were put in place. Just by charging for dental examinations including comprehensive, limited oral evaluation and periodic, the typical booked day’s production rose by almost $1,000.

If you would like more information on McKenzie Management’s Advanced Training Programs  to improve the performance of your team, email training@mckenziemgmt.com.

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