Hint: It’s not the lack of WIFI or the fluoride flavors options.
While WIFI, an attractive and updated waiting area and a friendly front office staff are all important factors in building and retaining a solid dental practice, the number one reason that a patient will leave for another practice is… Financial.
It often comes down to dollars and cents, and that really should not surprise given the cost of dental work these days, particularly for those who don’t benefit from an extended insurance plan.
Imagine this: you are buying a home and the realtor does not disclose his or her fees. At the end of the transaction, they hand you a bill for thousands of dollars. Would you find this acceptable? Of course not. But it’s precisely this fear of the ‘big bill’ that keeps many people from engaging in even regular preventive dental care, to say nothing of more intensive treatments.
Handling sticker shock
It’s not the easiest thing to do, but being up front about fees is the only way ensure that the patient is not shocked when they find that they have a large balance to pay at the end of treatment or a procedure. The old adage ‘start as you mean to finish’ was never more true than in this situation. In the event that you cannot be specific until you get into the work, an estimate with a range should still be offered.
It’s not realistic for a patient to be happy to receive an unexpected bill and, reasonable or not, that unhappiness can translate into them looking elsewhere for dental services. Most patients are not expecting any out of pocket billing, so if there is to be any, it falls on your office to be sure to tell them about it beforehand.
Education and trust are key
If people understand the value of what you are offering them, they are more likely to buy in and are more prepared to undertake the resulting financial hit. Your work is valuable and you need to price it accordingly but if the patient does not understand why or how it is valuable to them, all the diplomas and ‘fancy’ machines in the world won’t convince them!
Ultimately, if you build a relationship with your patients, they will trust you and even if your fees are slightly higher than the other practices in your area, you will find that the patients you have taken the time to get to know and appreciate will come back again and again. Part of the trust comes from your ability to explain treatment options, what the value of said treatment is and why it’s worth the price you are charging for it. Patients want to be in the care of someone they trust, so while price is important, it’s not everything.
Don’t slash your fees
If a patient is unhappy with your fees, discuss it with them but don’t get into the habit of slashing them as a marketing ploy to draw in new patients. When you end up going back to your actual rates, your new patients will be unhappy with the sudden increase. This doesn’t do much to foster trust or a feeling of caring for your patient.
What can you do to smooth the financial path for your patients
● Be upfront and clear about fees for services as well as how you expect payment to take place. Inform your patient BEFORE THE WORK IS DONE as to how much of the bill will not be covered by insurance.
● Do not add surprise extra charges without first advising the patient. Even small amounts can add up quickly.
● Offer financing solutions that allows your patients to budget for larger / extraordinary treatments that are only partly covered by insurance (or not at all!)
● Be wary of billing or insurance filing errors – if errors happen regularly because your staff is not trained on the systems for filing or other reasons, your patients will be frustrated and might leave.
● Balance your fees relative to the insurance companies provisions for services to ensure that your patient’s maximum allowed coverage is being leveraged.
If you’re not sure how to go about clarifying fees or smoothing the financial path for your patients, including balancing your fees, get in touch with DMA – we can help. http://dentalmanagementadvisors.com/contact