It’s that time of year when most businesses are planning their strategy & goals for coming year. It’s also when businesses start preparing to close the current financial year. As a practice owner, the question of whether to increase prices – & by how much – will no doubt come up in the next few months.
It goes without saying that your consultation fees are essential for covering your overheads & making a profit. If growth is in your plans for 2023, this article explores the 3 things you need to consider when setting your consultation fees & the 3 ways to boost your practice’s profitability.
3 key considerations when deciding how much to charge
Setting the right consultation fee can be a fine balancing act. If your fees are too high, you risk losing patients. If it’s too low, you will struggle to cover your costs. While you can consider basic guidelines from medical aid tariffs, it’s important to remember that they are just that – guidelines. Use these 3 guiding principles to help you set a consultation fee that will be good for your business & your patients.
1. Make sure your consultation fee covers your expenses
Your consultation fee, multiplied by your average monthly patient appointments, should be enough to cover all your practice costs & then some. Below is a basic cost % pyramid that you can use to calculate the necessary consultation fee based on your practice costs.
If you want to draw a salary of R30 000 a month, using the Practice % Pyramid¹ your other practice costs should look roughly like this:
40% salary: R30 000
20% other costs: R15 000
13% Support salaries: R11 250
7% Rent: R5 250
20% Profit: R15 000
Total practice cost per month: R75 000
Based on this simple example, if you are seeing 100 patients per month, you will need to set your consultation fee at R750 per consultation (R75 000 in monthly costs / 100 patients per month). This model is obviously a basic guideline & you can adjust the various %’s within the pyramid depending on your practice.
2. Look at the average fees charged by other practices
When you have a handle on the cost of running your practice, it’s a good idea to look at the average fees charged by other practices in your area. This will give you a benchmark to work from when setting your own fees.
For example, in the graph below you will see that the rate for medical consultations varies, depending on location. Much the same as the price of goods & services vary from province to province.
A lot of businesses are still feeling the aftershocks of COVID-19, including high unemployment rates & average consumer’s ability to pay, with KZN taking the biggest negative growth.
Taking it one step further, the data also shows significant variations in consultation fees within the same province. For example, the graph below shows a 33% difference in consultation fees between Sunninghill & Newtown.
There are several complex dynamics that come into play when it comes to the price of consultations. However, knowing your patient demographics is essential to making that decision. A single practice’s patient population can vary from affluent to less affluent but it’s unlikely that there is an even split. Look at your patient population to gauge the average Socio-Economic Measure (SEM) of the majority of your patient base. Use this information to help you set your fees.
Bear in mind that our data suggests that a higher consultation fee does not mean a more profitable practice. A practice with a lower consultation fee can do just as well financially as a practice that sees fewer, but charges more.
3. What medical aids do most of your patients belong to?
If a large proportion of your patient population belongs to a specific medical aid, it makes financial sense to explore contracting with that medical scheme. There are two direct benefits to contracting: 1) your practice be paid directly from the scheme, drastically reducing the necessity to collect directly from patients, & 2) you will be paid at the maximum scheme rate.
The graph below shows the number of claims & the Rand value of these claims for a GP’s practice over a period of a year. With 60% of the practice’s patients belonging to Discovery Health, the practice owner can decide whether to enter a preferred payment contract with Discovery, which will increase the average claim by R772 per consult or R95 8653 per year4.
Graph extract from Healthbridge’s Business Insights Report
Ways to increase revenue without increasing your consultation fee
1. Be sure to charge for all procedures & consumables
Too many practices don’t bother billing for consumables. Consumables cost money & if your patients aren’t paying for them, it’s coming out of your practice profits. Charging R12 for consumables might seem trivial but when multiplied by 15 patients a day, it adds an additional R3 9604 to your monthly revenue – or R47 520 a year. Billing for consumables as a separate line item means you can recoup the cost without increasing your consultation fees.
2. Reduce &/or renegotiate your practice costs
One way to increasing your practice profits is by reducing your expenses. You may think you are being lean but when you’re going through your expenses, ask yourself these two simple, but crucial, questions:
- Do I need this? If there’s an expense that you absolutely must have to operate your practice, then answer ‘yes’ & move onto the next question. However, if it’s not entirely necessary, you don’t need to spend money on it. This exercise alone can contribute hundreds, if not thousands, to your monthly profit margin.
- Can I get a better deal? You can’t avoid expenses like rent, loan repayments, office supplies & equipment, etc. These are must-haves that you can’t run your business without. While you can’t completely eliminate them from your expenses, you can make sure you are getting the best deal. Consider renegotiating your rent. Refinance business loans at a lower interest rate. Get a better deal on your phone contracts & utilities. Reach out to your suppliers to secure a better rate.
It won’t always be possible to pay less for certain services but it’s worth looking into. Compare the going rate for products & services & ask your provider to match the current offers in the market. Sometimes it will mean switching providers but increasing your profit margin by a percent or two can make a big difference in the long run.
3. Market your medical practice
Marketing is often overlooked as an important strategy to increase practice revenue. Business owners can mistake marketing as simply actions you take to drive sales, but marketing is a mirror (& measure) of your growth strategy. Consider offering new & innovative services that appeal to patients & draw in new patients. Talk about these new services on your website, social media sites, bulk SMS & other patient comms.
Speaking of which, create a strong online presence through SEO-optimized website content & active social media engagement. You can also reach out to your local community through targeted marketing campaigns & events. By increasing your visibility & making your medical practice more accessible, you can attract new patients & grow your business.
While it’s impossible to predict the future with 100% accuracy, there are steps you can take to set your practice up for growth (& any possible challenges that might come your way). A powerful step to take is to book a medical practice assessment from a skilled Healthbridge Business consultant. This FREE assessment will help you to identify areas where you can increase your revenue & decrease your expenses, giving you a head start on a prosperous 2023. Click here for more information.
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