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This Week’s Question: Charging Consultation Fees
Dear Catherine, I don’t charge for my consults and it was not a big deal before but this past year, it’s become an issue. Some of these patients aren’t showing up and it’s wasting my time since I could have been doing something else instead. It’s also wasting my staff’s time when we have these holes in the schedule. Should I start charging for my consults?
– Dr. B
Dear Dr. B,
No-shows can wreak havoc on your day, as well as your staff’s. It can be frustrating to watch your staff stand around waiting for a patient who is not showing up and you are also left in a “holding pattern” which isn’t good for your mood or your pocketbook.
When I interviewed patients to learn why they didn’t show up for their appointments, the #1 reason given was…
….they didn’t know you or have a relationship with you so they didn’t feel an obligation to show up if something else came up or if they changed their mind. If the majority of your patient-attraction strategies are based on “Internet Stranger Patients,” I suggest re-thinking your consult policies. There is just too much chatter out there to “assume” these prospective patients will show up even though they said they would. Of course, there is a lot more you could do at the front end, such as send them a welcome packet, call them ahead of time to introduce yourself and send out reminders.
However, the quickest way to find out how serious that prospective patient is is to charge them a consult fee. Just know, you will lose some of these callers who refuse to pay a consult fee; but the ones who do pay it are typically serious enough to respect your time. Test it. For one month, charge a consult fee and track the following: – How many prospects called or emailed? – How many of them converted to the consult? – How many of them showed up? – How many of those consults said YES? Then check those numbers against your usual numbers when you DON’T charge a consult fee and there’s your answer!
Do you agree or disagree?
What have you found to work best in your area?