Love your family. Love your friends. Love your staff. And you want to take care of them all (or not), but where do you draw the line? This is a very difficult and touchy subject for many practitioners and can create some hard feelings in you and them if not handled well. It also puts your staff on the front desk in an awkward position sometimes.
The answer is not the same for all practitioners and not the same for all professions either. The bottom line on where to draw the line is that you should have it all worked out and stated in your practice policy manual in writing. Otherwise, your staff will constantly have to come to you for adjudications.
Here are some thoughts and guidelines to consider:
1.Policy must be set and in writing, and then you must STICK TO IT. If you keep making exceptions, it is confusing to everyone, even to you as the owner and you may start to feel forced into being judgmental and arbitrary.
2. Define family and how many generations that includes. Grandparents. Mother and father. Sisters and brothers. And their spouses. And their immediate kids … until age 19? Decide where you draw the line.
3. For those professionals who take insurance for treatments, there is a very dangerous tendency to charge the insurance of these folks but not ask the family member or friend for the co-payment. This is putting yourself at risk from the insurance companies, your college and CRA. It is recommended that you do the service completely for free and not charge the insurance company. If you are willing to do the service for free, then do it for free … don’t mess with the insurance issue.
4. Friends is less of an issue as you are the one dictating if a friend is to be given free service. Just be sure and note it for the staff so they are not caught out in the middle. The bigger question with friends is whether the “free service” is reciprocal or not. If you are getting something in exchange from your friend, you are now into the barter realm where you must declare the “income” even though no money exchanged hands. And again, the co-payment issue as in #3 above would apply for those who take insurance.
5. Staff are often offered free service as a “perk of the job”. Decide if this includes staff’s spouses and kids up to age 19 or not. Put it in policy.
6. In all cases, what do you want to do about the outside costs such as lab and materials (if any) that are involved? Usually, these are covered by the person taking advantage of the free service, but again, it is up to you to set the policy so the staff have written guidance.
7. One last consideration for those practices that have bonus systems based on quantity of service delivered (income). If there is a lot of “free service” or major work done that does not get recorded on the income stats, it can slam dunk the bonus system and the staff could be a little less than pleased about “all this free service”. In this case, one thing that can be done is to factor the “forgiven” amounts back into the total income and pay the bonuses accordingly.
Hope this helps! (Such a hot potato issue!)
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