Barriers — Part 2

June 1, 2003
How we want you to pay for your first visit.
Here's an oxymoron for you: "Service Department!" And it's getting worse.

Tom Orent, DMD

Barrier No.2: How we want you to pay for your first visit.
Here's an oxymoron for you: "Service Department!" And it's getting worse. The upside is that it doesn't take much to stand out from the crowd when the rest are stooping so low. Thus, we have the phrase, "In the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is king." This brings me back to the story of the grandmother and the single-ended pot-roast. (See Part 1 of this article in the April issue of Dental Economics).

Your practice may be hemorrhaging profits and you might not even realize it. If the following scenario occurs in your practice, it's time to look again at that roast!

Prospective patient: "Hi, I'm new to the area and I was wondering if I could get an appointment for a checkup?"

Appointment coordinator: "I'd be happy to schedule your appointment for you. Do you have dental insurance?"

Patient: "Yes, I do. I work for Bedrock Stone Corporation. Our dental plan is through XYZ Insurance Corporation. Do you accept my plan?"

Appointment coordinator: "Certainly. We'll do all the paperwork for you. And we're happy to accept assignment of benefits too. However, for your first visit, we ask that you pay the full exam and X-ray fee, and then we'll file for reimbursement for you ..."

It's a numbers thing
You may not like the philosophy of payment for new-patient exams that I'm about to outline. But if you test and track this approach carefully, you can reap generous financial rewards. In my practice, it's no big deal. If they have insurance, we'll take it!

Too often, we allow our emotions to rule our decisions. Distance yourself from the emotional side of decision-making and you'll reap financial rewards that you can take to the bank. Look closely and you'll see countless examples of this in most practices.

Pro — If you require full payment at the new patient exam. You'll rarely get stiffed. If you are collecting everyone's first-visit fee, insured or otherwise, then you have almost a 100 percent collections ratio for new-patient first visits.

Impressive statistics? Not after you see what you give up! I'd rather get burned occasionally (for example, if the insurance wasn't valid, etc.). Bottom line: Whatever it takes, get the patient in the door!

Con — If you require full payment at the new-patient exam.
Let's say you see 400 new patients per year, and 200 are insurance patients. Suppose you accepted assignment for that first visit. If 10 percent give you bad (erroneous or even false) insurance information, you lose 10 percent x $200 x $150.00 (exam and X-ray fee, for example) = $6,000.00. (This seldom happens, but ...)

Of those new patients with insurance, suppose that 10 percent decide not to visit your office because you don't accept insurance assignment for the first visit. This amounts to 20 new patients who'll never know about your incredible team and practice. Let's assume that a new patient might average $1,500 to $2,000 in treatment per year. At just a 10 percent loss, you're hemorrhaging $30,000 to $40,000 just because "grandmother used to do it this way!"

Many business owners never realize that things happen differently when they are not present. You may have one of the best teams in dentistry, but that doesn't mean that you aren't losing potential new patients.

These losses occur because of policies that may be nothing more than "single-ended pot roasts!" It's nobody's fault — unless you fail to correct the problem immediately. Be the Nordstroms of dentistry and get the patient in your door!

Dr. Tom Orent, the GEMS GUY, is a management consultant and practicing dentist. He is a founding member and past president of the New England Chapter of the AACD. He has presented his "1,000 Gems SeminarsTM" in four countries and at state and national meetings in 46 states. He has lectured at numerous dental schools and is the author of four books and numerous articles on aesthetic dentistry, practice management, TMJ, and "Extreme Customer Service." Dr. Orent may be reached by phone at (888) 880-4367, by fax at (508) 879-4811, by email at [email protected], or visit

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