How fee friendly is your practice?

hands with coins

How fee friendly is your practice?

There are certain topics most dentists would rather avoid, and fees is one of them. Of course they know they need to get paid for the services they provide, but most prefer to set their fees and forget them. They’re afraid they’ll lose patients if they raise their prices, so they just keep them steady in the hopes of earning patient loyalty. 

It may seem easier this way, but trust me, if that’s how you view fees, it’s costing your practice big. 

Think about it. If you haven’t raised your fees in years, how are you able to invest in new technologies, upgrade your waiting area, or attend continuing education courses? I imagine it’s pretty difficult. And the truth is, patients actually expect the cost of dentistry to go up from time to time. Most want to go to a high-tech practice that offers the latest and greatest in patient care, and they’re willing to pay more for it. If your technology and services remain the same for years, some patients might actually start looking for a more up-to-date dental home. 

So how can you make your practice more fee friendly? Here are my tips: 

Establish a solid fee for every service. Before you can set your fees or make adjustments, you need to know how much it actually costs to perform the dentistry. Don’t just pull a number out of the air. Base your fees on overhead, expenses, your patient base, debt and the level of service you offer. 

It’s also important to keep your fees consistent. Some dentists under charge for certain services but make up for it by overcharging for others. This does nothing but confuse and annoy your patients. Charge based on what each service is worth. 

Make adjustments. The fear of losing patients keeps most dentists from implementing fee adjustments. Don’t fall into that trap. Instead, put a plan in place to adjust fees twice a year. I suggest you set the first increase at 2% and the second at 3%, for a total of 5%. This might not seem like a huge amount, but it will grow your bottom line—without giving your patients sticker shock. 

Find out what other dentists are charging. You don’t want to be known as the dentist with the highest prices or the lowest prices in your area. If you’re the highest, it could scare potential new patients away, and if you’re the lowest, you’re more likely to attract shoppers looking for a deal rather than a dental home. 

Adjust your fees so they’re in line with the competition, and so they reflect the level of service you offer. If you pride yourself on providing excellent customer service and high-tech treatment options, you can charge a little more than a practice that doesn’t. Just be sure to educate your patients. When they understand the quality they’re getting, they won’t mind paying a little extra. 

Develop a policy. Patients should know exactly when fees will be collected and how they can pay. I suggest you put together a policy that clearly details this information, and then give it to both new and existing patients. 

Use fee psychology. What exactly does that mean? Believe it or not, patients are more accepting of fees ending with $1, $2, $3, $4, $6, $7, and $8. Keep that in mind as you’re adjusting your fees.  

Build a rapport with patients. Many dentists prefer to focus on the dentistry rather than taking the time to build relationships with their patients, which does nothing to grow their patient base. Most patients want to feel a connection with the practice—and when they do, they’re usually OK with paying a little more for services rendered. 

How can you build this rapport? Get to know them. Start by asking about their jobs, their families and their oral health goals. Educate them about their condition and how your practice can get them to optimal health. When patients see you actually care, they’re more likely to stay loyal to your practice—even when you raise your fees.  

Offer third party financing. While most patients understand the need for fee raises, they might not be able to afford them. That’s where third party financing options like CareCredit come in. Patients can break their payments up into small monthly chunks, so it becomes easier to say yes to treatment. 

It’s time to make your practice more fee friendly. Following these tips will get you started. Feel free to reach out if you need more guidance. As always, I’m happy to help. 

Sally McKenzie is CEO of McKenzie Management, www.mckenziemgmt.com, a full-service, nation-wide dental practice management company. Contact her directly at 877-777-6151 or at sallymck@mckenziemgmt.com.

Dental Billing Tips and News for Pros; Edition #137

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