Should the doctor discuss fees? I’m often asked this question when training doctors on how to improve case acceptance. If you have ever asked a consultant or colleague this question before, the answer would depend on who you talk to. As a rule, most consultant types suggest that the doctor not talk about money.
Prior to becoming an MGE client, I had a consultant who specialized in collections come into my practice a couple of times per year.
I vividly remember one visit where they had spent a couple of days working with my front desk staff. At the end of the visit, the consultant and I met and discussed what was going on and how to handle things from there. When discussing how to present treatment to my patients, I asked what to do if the patient asked me how much something cost. The consultant looked at me and said, “Tell them you don’t know.”
I had a hard time with this idea. I could not fathom how a patient would believe that I wouldn’t know the cost for a procedure in my own practice. I asked a few more questions to clarify this and the consultant’s reply was that if I told people how much things cost I would ruin all of the work they had just spent the past few days doing. Needless to say, I think I followed this advice once. I could not bring myself to answer the question, “Doctor, how much will this cost me?” with, “I don’t know.” It just did not seem right. Now this is not to say that I felt comfortable discussing fees with patients. A doctor should be able to do that and I learned how to overcome this obstacle on my MGE: Management Experts, Inc. training. However, acting like I had no idea just did not work for me.
The end result of all of this consulting was an accounts receivable that was approximately two months of production, which the consultant thought was fine. Unfortunately, I didn’t.
Most doctors feel uncomfortable or afraid of discussing fees with patients. All sorts of reasons are made up to make this normal, such as, “it degrades a doctor to talk about money,” or, “patients don’t want to hear about fees from their doctor.” These reasons make an inability or lack of communication skill seem OK. It is similar to the Aesop’s Fable about the fox that lost her tail and then tried to make all of the other foxes think that having no tail was the “way to be.”
Now, why is it that the doctor should be able to talk about fees? Well first off – it’s your business. Second, patients take what you are saying with a lot more weight since you are the doctor. And last, if you get uncomfortable talking about fees with your patients (nervous, etc.) then there is an aspect of your practice that is not under your control.
Some doctors I have discussed this with avoid the subject altogether as they don’t want to face the potential upsets patients might have with fees. Well, that’s being backed off and lacking the ability to face up to a situation. So instead of being willing to face up to it, they send the patient up front to get ticked off with the front desk personnel. Imagine going to a department store to look for a washer and dryer, the salesperson comes over to answer your questions and then when it comes time to get the price, they say, “You know, I don’t discuss that with customers. You see that person up there at the register? They’ll tell you.” It sounds ridiculous; but this is what is happening in most dental offices!
Trouble dealing with issues like this will seriously hamper your success with case presentations. It will also make you a zero as an executive (so if you have this problem, you may have noticed difficulties as a manager). This leads to a situation where you are not in control of your business.
You may have it chalked up that you are “not the communicating type,” or that you could never learn to really communicate effectively. This idea of personality types is to a large degree false. Yes, people are different; you are an individual just as anyone else is. However, the idea that someone has a certain personality, that that’s just the way it is, and that you can’t change it, is just not true. People can and do change. Communication is an ability that can be learned; it is not a genetic trait.
At MGE we can teach 97.5% of the people who come through our doors how to effectively communicate with their patients at the MGE Communication and Sales Seminars. After I did these seminars, my accounts receivable went from two months of production to less than a month, and this was after doubling my productivity!
Instead of dreading treatment presentations, you can look forward to them as an opportunity to really improve your patients’ health.
Look at it this way – any area of your practice that you have trouble controlling is a potential liability. Trouble with treatment presentation can translate into multiple problems, from lack of income to an empty schedule, or, worst of all, patients not receiving the treatment they need.