How & Why to Raise Your Fees
Like all businesses, Chiropractic offices must also raise fees from time to time to meet the demand of lower insurance reimbursement and the higher cost of doing business.
The problem arises in that most doctors have a nagging panicky thought in the back of their mind telling them that ‘…patients may not like the rate hike and take a hike.’
While this is a common fear that I encounter with doctors seeking advice from me on this topic, there are many ways to soften, justify and even spark new life into your clinic through a price increase.
Below are a few strategies that will help you make this transition smoother for your patients, your staff and easier to justify in your own mind which in reality is where all successful change must first take place.
You’re worth it. This is mindset #1 that you and your staff must believe and embrace. When breaking the news to patients about a price increase, don’t be afraid to tack “…but we’re worth it” onto the end of whatever script your staff is using.
Tell it like it is. It’s OK to tell it like it is. You don’t need to throw anyone under the bus per se, but it’s important to justify your changes with the very real world factors that have precipitated your fee changes. Lower reimbursement and higher costs of doing business will probably sum it up for most clinics.
Charge for what you do. This is actually the first action step you should take before increasing the cost of any treatment. Very often when we begin the business chiropractic coaching with new members of Patients to Profits who ask for our help on raising their fees, we discover that they are not even charging the patients for all the services being performed. Could making just a simple change in your coding and billing practices gives you a substantial income boost? Take a close look at it and you might be surprised. Examples include charging for extremity adjustments (if you adjust it, charge for it) and therapeutic exercise (if you go beyond 8 minutes of exercise instruction or stretching, charge for it).
People don’t like change. The odds are very high in your favor that even if a few people don’t like the change in your fees or billing practices that they still won’t stray. There is something people like even less than paying more for healthcare, and that is finding a new doctor and having to go into an unknown environment for the first time. Don’t discount the power of familiarity on a customer’s decision to stick with your clinic.
Give an alternate option. A great part of raising fees is using it as a time to introduce other options that mutually benefit you and the patient. If your fee is currently $45 dollars for an adjustment, typically you would want to raise it a few dollars every year or so and inch your way up to slowly give yourself a raise and compensate for natural changes in the economy. However, an alternative is to raise your fees more steeply but give patients an option that will still benefit them. For example, if you raise your fees from $45 to $59 dollars, that’s a pretty big jump but it’s also a big motivation to pre-pay for 10 visits at a 20% discount which would put the cost per visit almost back in line with your old pricing structure. So in other words… “We have an increase in fees starting ______ but we have a great new program that will help you keep your costs down while we work hard to keep the value of your care high….”
Another option is a monthly charge for a certain number or unlimited adjustments per month. Think about a gym membership. I have used this in my own clinics and it is an effective way to promote a significant level of known and steady income generated every month. And you can provide what we call ‘add-on’ services that patients have the option of getting with their membership visits. If structured and promoted correctly (and legally for your state), this can provide a big revenue boost each month.
When it comes to increasing fees, keep in mind that it is your staff that in most cases will be telling active patients about the changes or at least discussing it with them once they have been notified through a well-crafted email or other notification method.
Because of this, it’s critical to have your staff on board with the changes so they feel they are justified and reasonable. The best way to start that process is to ask their opinion about what they feel is a basic office fee charge (adjustment included) that is well justified by the level of customer service and treatment they and you provide. You’ll be surprised by the answers. And once you have found your magic number, because the change in fees was discussed, strategized and partly decided based on their input, they will be behind it and better able to explain it to the patients.