Congratulations! You did it. After much gnashing of teeth and cold sweats, you implemented a new fee schedule that is based on real information not gut feelings. You gathered factual data on the demographics of your patients. You collected information on the fees charged by other dentists. You evaluated the amount of time you want to spend in the office per week, the amount of money you want to make per year, and the quality of the dental services you provide. And lo and behold you developed a fee schedule that you are comfortable with that is fair…
Then the phone rings. It’s Mr. Hallahan and he is not a happy man. It’s not that he’s dissatisfied with the care he’s received in your practice; he just can’t understand why it costs so much. After all, he was only in the chair for about 30 minutes. He has what I’ll call the 15-minute oil change mentality. Mr. Hallahan has no comprehension of the value of the service you’ve provided. It’s a “routine” filling, just like a “routine” oil change. You’re in, you’re out. Fact is, the amount you charged him is irrelevant. Your fee could have been reduced, and he still would feel he’d paid too much. It’s the value that is lost on Mr. Hallahan.
You know the type – they just don’t get it. And why don’t they “get it”? Often it’s because you haven’t given it to them. Perhaps it’s time you evaluated where your practice is losing value in the eyes of your patients.
Patients begin weighing the value of your care the moment they pick up the phone to schedule an appointment. If they are able to promptly reach the Scheduling Coordinator and book a convenient time, the value goes up. When the patient arrives at your office and they have to drive around for 15 minutes to find a parking space, the value of your practice is reduced. If the patient is greeted warmly and by name when they come into the office, the value of the visit increases. If they’ve had the opportunity to log on to your website and learn more about your practice or a specific procedure, the value of care increases further. If they have to sit in a disorganized waiting area with stained chairs, dirty carpet, outdated magazines, and poorly regulated temperatures, you can bet the value of your care is shrinking. If the patient receives a follow-up call from the doctor after a more extensive procedure, the patient’s perceived value of care shoots through the roof.
Get my point. You can charge patients a fee that is based on real data and is fair to both the patient and the practice, but you need to educate patients continuously on the value of your care. The lessons take place every time the phone rings. They stretch from the parking lot, to the prophy, to the treatment plan, to the financial arrangements, to the follow-up calls from the doctor. And everyone on the team, not just the doctor, serves as teacher.
Creating value in the eyes of the patient involves giving them the opportunity to learn about the condition of their oral health, the recommendations for improving it, and why you are making those specific recommendations. In addition, the entire team must recognize that it is their responsibility to routinely emphasize the excellent dental care delivered and the team’s commitment to provide that care to every patient.
The doctor and clinical staff take time to allow Mr. Hallahan to see for himself the condition of his mouth. He is given the opportunity to listen and understand the recommendations. He’s encouraged to ask questions, so that he knows exactly why you are making the treatment recommendations you are. He understands the course of treatment and precisely what is involved. When doctor and team clearly explain the “what,” “why,” and “how,” and when every member of the team takes the time to reinforce the practice’s commitment to providing Mr. Hallahan the best care they can, he isn’t walking into the practice with a 15-minute oil change mentality. He understands the importance of the care he is receiving, and, most importantly, he values it.
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