Your Philosophy on Payment
Before you even begin building your dentistry business, it is important to be clear on your philosophy about when and how well you expect to be paid for your services. Do some research to find out what other dentists are charging their patients to have a starting point for pricing dental care. You can learn about recommended fees for each procedure from your Canadian Dental Association, such as the Ontario Dental Association (ODA). Once you know the recommended fee, you can assess whether you should charge less or more for your services.
You will need to decide whether to do insurance assignment or choose non-assignment and require patients to pay at the time of service and be reimbursed later by their insurance company. Consider if you want to offer financing for dental treatments since you can find out within 30 minutes if the patient is approved for these payment arrangements. You can also refer to the sections on dental insurance and payments later in this book to learn more about these options.
Most dentists find that requiring payment at the time of treatment helps them avoid spending time and effort on collections and keeps the cost down for other patients. While this may sound reasonable to you now, you need to come to terms with what that means. It might mean that patients have to delay treatments until they can gather the funds for them, risking their own oral health and your ability to serve them the way you would like. It could also mean that your dentistry staff may seem uncaring toward your patients. There are ways around this, as will be discussed in the chapter on providing a positive patient experience, but there is no doubt this will be a challenge for most dental professionals.
Your primary goal may be to help your patients have great oral health, but you have no power to do that unless your dentistry business survives. As in the classic story of Beowulf, you must face the dragon. Do it before you ever open your doors to patients. Otherwise, you may find yourself in a situation in which your patients expect you to provide care even when they cannot pay. And, if there are certain situations that would cause you to relax your policy on payment, define them for yourself now so you will know what to do immediately when the time comes to make those decisions.