This article about discounting your fees has graced the pages of Denturism Canada a number of years ago. However, the issue continues to rear its ugly head, so we wanted to “play it again.”
The theme is: Be the BEST and get compensated appropriately, or how to eliminate discounts in a practice. By discounting, you are giving away your own retirement funds to people who are often already retired.
Go for quality
It goes without saying that you are providing quality care and service to your patients and that you are using materials that are appropriate for the quality of denture that the patient is purchasing. If this is not true, then this is the first area that needs to be improved.
Eliminate, eliminate, eliminate!
The following is an outline of what needs to be done to eliminate or significantly reduce discounts.
1. Eliminate all references to discounts in office policy, patient handouts, advertising, signs, etc.
2. Clearly state that you follow the fee guide issued by your association. This includes conversations with patients as well as any written material handed out to them.
3. Never offer a discount. Don’t originate that you offer a discount of any sort. The most common one is a discount for seniors. The bulk of the wealth in Canada resides in the hands of seniors so you would be offering a discount to those who need it least. This is not to say that you shouldn’t do some charity work for those who truly cannot afford it. Charity work can be done, but be sure that the candidate really does qualify and keep the amount of charity work within reason, as you need to earn a living too.
4. When asked for a discount, tell the patient that you only use the highest quality materials including teeth and that you do not use any shortcuts in making dentures. Politely ask the patient if they want you to reduce the quality of material or teeth that you are using in making their denture or if they want you to use short cuts in making their denture. Explain that in order for you to provide them with a high quality denture which you are sure they want, then the fee is $XX.
5. Should the patient persist, you are best to tell them that you cannot provide them with dentures and that it may be best for them to seek out someone else. Do not be afraid to turn a patient away, especially if they want a discount or want it done their way, as these are usually clear signs of problems to come.
More often than not, the “problem” patients who you can never satisfy and who make the lives of you and your staff miserable are the same ones who want a discount and usually a significant one. And guess what? They refer more patients to you who are the same as they are! This is not a healthy way to build a practice.
6. Train your staff to be able to deal with patients concerning this matter. Answer any questions from your staff that arise and then role-play them through handling the various situations that they determine will come up. Do this until they are completely at ease with this. The role-playing will most likely need to be done more than once.
7. When transitioning away from discounts, existing patients of the practice might remember that they got a discount the last time they were in for service. Let them know that in order to keep your fees reasonable despite rising costs of quality materials, you have had to eliminate discounts. Tell them that you are sure that they want the best, which you are doing everything possible to provide them.
In some instances, you may wish to continue the discount policy with a FEW longterm patients who are very good. This should only be a few, and you should let them know that this is a very special arrangement for them. Make sure that they know that this will not be offered to anyone that they refer although you will definitely provide their friends with the best possible care and service. You can also obligate them to sending in some of their friends by saying that since you are continuing to offer them the special discount, you would really appreciate it if they send some of their friends to you.
8. Track the total amount of discounts being given. If you are computerized, this is usually a feature of the software, i.e. the program will track discounts if they are entered as a full fee and then adjusted downwards by entering a discount. If not computerized, make a separate column in your ledger where you can enter discounts.
By tracking discounts, you can see whether you are making progress in eliminating or reducing them, or once that has been achieved, if they are staying where you want them to.
Caring for the patient and for you too
Nowhere in this article did we say be heartless or unsympathetic with your patients. We do, however, believe in delivering high quality care and getting thanked (paid) appropriately for it.
This is the route to a happy retirement when you are ready.
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