Time to Raise Your Fees?
If it's been a year or more since your last price increase, it may be time to nudge your fees higher.
Probably no other business decision is more troubling than the prospect of raising fees. Countless chiropractors remain undercompensated due to the imagined effect of what a price increase would produce. If that's you, here's a perspective that may release you from this needless fear.
What You Do Is Valuable
First, you can't collect a single dime more than what you think you're worth. That means setting your fees reflects a combustible combination of your self-esteem, communication skills, marketing prowess and your very identity.
This can manifest in adjusting more segments than necessary, squandering valuable time chit-chatting or delivering non-essential services to avoid the possibility of a patient questioning what you charge. Not only does this make visits longer than necessary, but reduces the number of people you can help. Remember...
• You're performing a valuable procedure with few side effects
• You're unleashing the self-healing capacity of patients' bodies
• You're helping patients avoid kidney and liver damage from NSAIDs
• You're far more affordable than irreversible spinal surgery
• You're addressing the underlying cause rather than the symptom
In other words, what you do is far more precious than the alternative offered by more traditional (and expensive) medical treatments. Hold your head high. You deserve to be fairly compensated. Jettison any trace of inferiority or second-class citizenship!
You Take Substantial Risk
After eschewing a more conventional career in medicine or dentistry, you chose the riskier path of becoming a chiropractor. Riskier because of the judgment and raised eyebrows of relatives. Riskier because chiropractic is frequently seen as a dodgy, less acceptable discipline. Riskier because chiropractic is widely misunderstood. Riskier because you chose to march to a different drummer.
On top of the social component, there's the substantial financial debt you incurred to obtain your education and license. And let's not forget the sometimes demeaning role of being an associate doctor and then, later, the risk of running a small business, hamstrung by inadequate capitalization and marketing know-how.
Don't forget the fear instilled by college professors of accidentally hurting someone, or being accused of inappropriate touching, or the countless other risks to which you're exposed daily. Simply put, you deserve to be generously compensated for the help you provide and the risk you incur to do so.
Looking for a Reason to Quit
But all this is moot if you're apprehensive that raising your fees 5% or 10% will produce a mass exodus from your practice.
Granted, there are a handful of patients who even the most modest price increase will prompt to discontinue their care. Emotionally, they've already left your practice. They're merely looking for an excuse to quit, and by inching your prices higher, you've provided a handy one.
To be clear, there are those who believe how their bill is paid is more important than what's being done to them. That's why some will agree to risky surgery—simply because it's covered by their insurance! Remember, paying for their care and valuing their health are intrinsically linked to their values, beliefs and priorities, which you have little to no control over.
What patients do reveals more about them than you.
Most people, most of the time, can afford just about anything they value, whether it's eating out five nights a week, a Caribbean vacation, regularly manicured nails or something even more frivolous compared to better health.
Their choice is not a reflection of you, your worth or even your ability to communicate chiropractic principles in a compelling way.
If your patient relationships are so tenuous as to be impaired by a deserved cost-of-living increase, there wasn't much of a relationship there. That might be an important clue that you may need to improve the experience patients have in your practice. Look for ways to make your care transformational rather than merely transactional. That's how the busiest practices create loyal patients who willingly accommodate price increases and refer others.
Give Yourself a Raise
How much do you need to raise your fees? If you practice in the U.S. use this handy calculator to find out. Simply enter the year and price of an adjustment the last time you increased it.
For illustration purposes, let's say you raised your fees to $32.00 back in 2019. That means, based on the inflation that has occurred since, that same adjustment should cost $35.51 in 2022.
A $4 increase isn't particularly head-turning, and most practices should be able to do that without missing a beat. However, if your price rise is long overdue, you may need to roll it out over two tranches, spaced six months apart.
But merely keeping up with the Consumer Price Index isn't the objective. You probably deserve a raise. After all, you're more experienced and wiser than you were a couple of years ago. As you contemplate raising your fees, it's the ideal time to add another dollar or two to compensate yourself for being a better chiropractor.
How to Announce Your Price Increase
Once you've determined how much you're going to raise your fees, decide when you're going to do it.
Some practices make the mistake of keeping current patients on the old price schedule and only increasing prices for new patients. Eventually, this produces resentment, as you fall out of fair exchange with your long-term maintenance and wellness patients.
Give patients a 30-day notice of your price increase by announcing it in writing. That could be in the form of a notice posted at the front desk, an email, a traditional snail mail letter or all three.
Here's a template from the Patient Media 50 Patient Emails eBook that you can use as a starting point to develop your message:
Subject: This Small Increase Is Long Overdue
Our last price increase was way back in [YEAR].
Beginning on [DATE], we will be raising the fee for our office visits from $___ to $___.
The increase is small and will bring us in step with the other practices in our area, keeping our services competitively and fairly priced.
This will help ensure the excellent care, pleasant environment and well-trained staff members you've come to expect from us.
I truly appreciate your patronage and understanding as a valued practice member.
Short and sweet. No apologies. Simply a reasonable explanation for the needed price increase. A slightly different approach comes from the Patient Media 50 Patient Letters book:
Our last price increase was way back on (DATE).
In case you haven't noticed, prices for just about everything (except your chiropractic care!) have continued to increase since then. That's why we need to make a modest price increase.
Starting on (DATE), we'll be using the following new fee structure:
(List key services with old and new prices.)
Notice that these increases are small and will bring us in step with the other offices in our area to keep our services competitively and fairly priced.
Please remember we have never denied anyone access to chiropractic care just because their circumstances prevented them from paying our published fees. If you find yourself in a hardship situation, please let us know so that we can arrange an Individual Consideration Contract for you.
Thanks for your understanding. We appreciate the continued opportunity to serve you.
The key is to avoid the slightest whiff of defensiveness. Remember, you deserve a higher fee, and your best patients will understand and accept this simple fact of life. Go for it!
Questions? Comments? Email Bill.