Find your fee schedule sweet spot to boost your bottom line
Dentistry has often been called a recession-proof business, and it’s easy to understand how it gained that reputation. After all, people always need dentistry, even when money is tight, right? The problem is that the average American doesn’t budget for dentistry, and when they find themselves watching their wallets, their twice-yearly dental exam is an easy thing to postpone. Even worse, the patients who do manage to make their recall and are trying to maintain their oral health are often pinching pennies as well. They’re making every dollar count, and many dentists fear that if their patients’ dollars don’t count for much in their practice, those patients just might start shopping around for another dentist…or stop going to the dentist entirely.
The Difficulties Facing Private Practice Dentists
The pressure from patients to keep fees in check is there, but if you also accept dental insurance, then you know that patients aren’t the only ones exerting pressure on your fee schedule. Each year, dental insurance companies lower their reimbursement rates, forcing many doctors to cram their schedules to the breaking point, turning over patients at a rapidly increasing clip.
Dentists are feeling squeezed from both sides—patients want lower rates and insurance companies are paying less, while expenses grow, employee salaries rise and inflation looms. What is a private practice dentist to do?
The Importance of Examining Your Fee Schedule
It’s crucial, especially in these uncertain economic times, to take a hard look at your fee schedule once a year to make certain that it’s fully up to date and appropriate for your area. Do you remember the last time you really closely examined your fees? Not just a cursory examination, but the last time you really dug deep, got critical and analyzed where you currently stand compared to all of your peers?
Chances are it’s been a while. The problem is that without regularly looking at your fees, it’s impossible for you to make effective decisions regarding your business. The key is finding the fee schedule sweet spot that enables you remain viable without running the risk of your services becoming undervalued. You also can’t provide your patients with benefits such as cash, senior or advance payment discounts, Care Credit or Whitening for Life. Patient benefits continue to be one of your best tools for building patient loyalty and setting yourself apart from your competitors.
Without increasing your fees, you may not be able to stay competitive; you can’t afford to continue to update your practice with the latest technology, or to get all of the necessary continuing education to hone your clinical skills. Operating a successful practice depends on implementing these kinds of patient incentives in a way that boosts your bottom line rather than destroying it. And the key to doing this lies in setting appropriate fees.