Know your worth and add tax!
One of my first three dental house calls was a denture adjustment for an elderly woman. It took me all of five minutes to adjust the denture. She was raving about how relieved she felt. I felt great! Then she said, “So I owe the hospital thousands, now what do I owe you?” Then, my heart sank into my stomach. All of a sudden, I felt like a burden and I charged her nothing. I told her just take my business card and tell all of her friends.
Friends, this woman was pushing 100 and homebound. She told me herself that most of her friends were no longer with us. She was a wonderful lady, but probably not the best marketing source, right? So, after helping this woman, I left her home with less material than I arrived with, with dirty instruments, feeling guilty, and with no cash in hand.
I told myself, “Well, it was only a short appointment” as if that justified the free dental house call. That wasn’t even the final time something like this happened. The truth is, I didn’t charge my first three patients. Yep, I drove over to their residences, did dental work in their homes, and couldn’t bring myself to charge them.
This isn’t because I was so charitable.
It wasn’t because I had an excess of time or money.
It’s because I felt guilty!
Venturing into a new business can create disorientation when it comes to tagging the right price for your services. If you can relate to this story, follow this link and listen carefully to this episode as we establish embracing healthy business practices.
Charging is not arrogant.
To sustain your business you need to get comfortable with charging the right prices. After walking away empty-handed, three times over, I had a major mindset shift. Revisiting my basic beliefs and values helped me focus on the reason why I started this business in the first place. I believe in being a good steward of the resources I have been given. Not charging would mean wasting the supplies, materials, and eventually, losing the opportunity to serve the patients in my community who needed at-home dental care. The main lesson here is conducting a healthy business is not me, it's not about the owner. My healthy business practices ensure that my community has access to residential dental care. Do not make profiting optional. You need profits to sustain your business. The community needs your business.
Understanding the value of dental home care
Home care dental practices operate differently than traditional practices. The obvious is logistical differences in the timing of patient visits. Depending on the procedure and cooperation level of the patient, dental house call visits can take anywhere between 45 minutes and 2 hours. In public health, I see four or five of my scheduled patients plus at least two hygiene exams in 2 hours. A dental house call is a less “efficient” use of time, but the service doesn’t exist to be efficient! It exists to meet a need making that opportunity cost.
Before that 45-minute - 2-hour visit, you have to pack your suitcase, pick up cases from the lab, and drive. Afterward, you drive home, write notes, and sterilize instruments. Furthermore, don’t forget about all the years it took you to acquire the skills to be able to do these procedures.
So, house call dentists need to charge for not only the specific procedure but the total time spent preparing for your appointment.
Build a secure and strong business
I’m grateful that I finally embraced healthy business practices. It’s made AccommoDental secure and strong. I should mention that, at this time, dental insurance doesn't cover house calls and reimbursements for procedures aren’t high enough to sustain this business model, anyway.
Remember to recognize the value of your services and know that you have permission, actually, an obligation, to charge what you need to charge to live your life and offer your valuable services.
I couldn’t turn a blind eye to economically disadvantaged patients. Dental care is a necessity, after all. I decided to create the Home Smile Care Foundation to close the gap between house-call dentists and economically disadvantaged patients.
Full disclosure, we’re still in the founding and fundraising phase. We’re hoping to be up and operating in early 2023.
The Home Smile Care Foundation is a non-profit organization that will give funding to patients who truly NEED and CANNOT AFFORD at-home dental care.