Many variables affect the profitability of a dental practice. One of them is your fee schedule. No clinic can afford to keep their fees unchanged for years at a time. You have to periodically revise the fees to accurately reflect costs, market characteristics, and other factors.
Even if you don’t actually change your fees, it is a good idea to evaluate them at least once a year. It allows you to check if your fees are in line with the competition. You should also make sure you’re not overcharging patients or leaving money on the table.
Things to Consider When Updating Your Fee Schedule
Your fixed and variable expenses will play a big role in setting your fee schedule. At the very least, you should be charging enough to cover your expenses like payroll, rent, utilities etc. If you can minimize costs, you can increase the profitability. The exact same procedure can be profitable for one practice and a total loss for another. This variability is because of differences in their cost structure and efficient resource management.
Market characteristics can cover everything from what the competition charges to the average income level of your patients. Even the location of your practice will affect how much you can charge for your services. For instance, all dental practices may be charging a certain price for comprehensive exams in a particular area.
If the market is particularly price-sensitive, charging even five dollars about that price may deter new patients from coming in. The same may not be true in an affluent neighborhood. Your clients may be willing to pay more if you can demonstrate that you provide value-added services to justify the higher prices.
Dental care costs vary across different areas in the United States. The same procedure (porcelain/ceramic crown) may cost anywhere from $1200-$1400, depending on the region. It’s always a good idea to check national and regional data relevant to your category of practice (cosmetic dentistry, pediatric dentistry etc.) when setting your fees. Prices can vary within the region as well. These regional differences can be attributed to:
- A difference in operational expenses
- Overhead costs
- Cost of human resources
- Level of insurance coverage
- Availability of dental care facilities
Type of Procedures and Techniques
Another factor to consider when setting your fees is the type of procedure. Some practices price certain procedures (general exam or x-rays) at a loss to entice new patients. The idea here is to attract new patients who will become loyal clients and come back for services in the future. It is a good strategy for general services but not for more specialized procedures. You should make sure that the profit margins on other procedures are enough to make up the loss.
On the flipside, you can charge more for innovative techniques or new procedures that are not yet commonly available in other clinics. This is especially true if the new process can reduce the time or eliminate pain for the patient during the visit.
Dental Insurance Plans
This is an often overlooked item that factors heavily into your fee schedule. Not all plans will pay the same amount for a procedure. Dental insurance plans can also be complex to understand for patients, so they might not know if a particular procedure is covered or not. You may find that certain processes are not profitable for your clinic because the dental plan that is commonly used by your patients does not cover it. You may have to decide between dropping the services altogether, raising the fees or some other change to cover the gap.