Many dentists I meet have set their new patient examinations and re-examination appointments to the shortest times possible so they can spend the best part of the day doing juicy (higher fee) restorative work. (Why do dentists insist on calling these appointments “exams”, even on their websites?)
The fees for their appointments have to be the right side of what the market will bear and typically that means £45-90 for private new patient examinations and £35 to £60 for private patient re-examinations. Inevitably, with fees this low, these services are loss leaders.
It’s important that private dentists don’t average more than 10 re-examination appointments a day (NHS dentists have to set the number at 20) so there is enough time left in the day to do some high fee work as well as see new patients and emergencies.
However, if you shorten new patient appointments to less than 60 minutes in private practice (or less than 30 minutes in NHS practices) and shorten re-examination appointments to less than 20 minutes in private practice (or less than 10 minutes in NHS practices) then you are probably holding back your daily gross.
Because if your examination appointments are too short, you won’t have time to talk to your patients about their treatment options and the benefits of long term solutions, as opposed to quick fixes.
Short examinations lead to dentists doing lots of lower fee, single unit dentistry. Longer examinations lead to patients accepting more comprehensive treatment plans, often involving multiple unit and extrinsic restorative work, simply because the dentist has sufficient time to talk to the patient about their choices, make a qualified recommendation and address any objections.
In an NHS situation the dentist has time to explain the benefits of a private alternative (and before you accuse me of encouraging gaming or mixing, I’m not, I’m simply suggesting that dentists change their habits and offer patients a proper choice between short, medium and long term solutions…).
The likely effect of extending examination times on the dentist’s gross is to increase it from £900-£1,200/day to £1,500-£1,800/day for a private dentist and from £700-£900/day to £850-£1,400/day for an NHS dentist.
Several Breathe practices have tried this and one large private practice (five general dentists) recently spent a year experimenting with increasing the re-examination time from15 minutes to 30 minutes (and charging the same 15 minute fee) and the practice gross increased by 31 per cent.
If you would like some help with implementing longer examination times and getting past the push-back of your associates while helping them understand what they will need to do during longer appointments, please contact me for a chat.
m. 07770 430576