Trojan Today Classics: “It’s All About Attitude” by Linda Miles

Have you ever wondered why some dental practices have very little money in their Accounts Receivable (A/R) while other practices have enough on the books to pay the National Debt? It’s all about ATTITUDE, specifically the dentist/owner’s attitude about money and their own fees.

Many dentists dislike answering fee questions from their patients. They also feel guilty when it is time to increase their fees. If one or two patients complain about the fees, it seems like ten patients per day are complaining. Inadvertently, these negative money attitudes are passed on to staff and patients. We know for a fact Accounts Receivables are higher in a low fee office than in one with above average fees. Why? Because in the lower fee office someone, usually the dentist, thinks the fees are too high. Patients pick up on this attitude and take advantage of it.

About thirty percent of all dentists are totally confident and comfortable with their above average fees. They know the services they provide, the facilities in which they provide these services, their technology, and their staff are above average…so why have just average fees? This confidence is passed on to the staff, and patients develop an attitude of gratitude about their care and therefore have no problem paying the presented fees.

Many dentists use excuses such as “We practice in a rural setting,” or “The economy in our town is really down these days,” or “Our patients need their money for holidays and back-to-school expenses.” The list goes on. The best excuse is “We always have a bad month this time of year, so we expect it.” All of these excuses are cover-ups for the fact the money attitudes in this practice are unhealthy. Let’s face it: the economy is down, patient earning power has been compromised in some areas of the country, and some areas of the country are not as affluent as others. Have you also noticed the same patients who can’t afford dentistry find money to eat out six times per week; buy new cars, trucks, and motorcycles; and go to movies and tanning beds?

I’ve seen practices increase by $15,000- $30,000 per month (per dentist) when:

  • The dentist and staff developed new financial communication skills, since competence creates confidence.
  • Fees were based on the quality of the services rendered and everyone in the practice realized if skills, facility, lab technology, materials, and staff were above average, it was appropriate to have above average fees.
  • Financial options were clearly outlined and included cash, check, credit card, and finance company.
  • The financial attitudes in the practice became positive, indicating to the patients the practice provides the highest quality of care in a very professional manner but also EXPECTS to be paid.

Accounts Receivable balances in dentistry were 2.0-2.5 times the monthly production twenty-five years ago. In the late 1980s, with the introduction of credit card usage in dentistry, the A/R was reduced and considered healthy at 1.5 times the monthly production. By the early 1990s, finance companies began a new and even more exciting trend in A/R management. Now dental patient financing companies can work with patients so they can maintain good dental health practices while making comfortable monthly payments over time. Even in the most affluent areas of the country, if a financial partner is not part of A/R management, the practice growth is limited by non-accepted treatment plans…because this is truly a “pay-as-we-go” society.

Linda Miles, speaker, consultant, author, and CEO of Linda Miles, and Associates, is a true pioneer in the field of practice management consulting. FMI: www.asklindamiles.com