One of the most frequent questions we are asked in our medical centre is if the first visit and price estimate are free `What do you mean…The first visit isn’t free? ´
Due to the proliferation of franchised clinics (above all dental clinics) where they advertise “first visit free” this has extended the concept that this is normal and should always be this way.
This publicity strategy has created the idea that a price estimate is to simply give a price after a five minute chat with the patient. The patient could practically explain their case over the telephone and the clinic can give them the price it would cost to solve their problem. The patient does not understand why they have to pay before they start to be treated.
These are a variety of basic confusions which we would like to explain and clarify:
What is a price estimate?
A price estimate for medical treatment is already part of that treatment as it is a diagnostic study; it is the first phase of any treatment and one of the most important consisting in the observation, analysis, medication, and definitively, the application of the academic knowledge and the practiced experience of a qualified doctor.
Who should create and give a price estimate?
A price estimate should only be given by an administrative assistant after receiving the diagnosis and the indications of a doctor. In many franchised clinics they have “sales people”, staff that are unconnected to health professionals and who have been informed and trained to give a “diagnosis” and to give price estimates centered on the interests of the company. These sales people work on commission on what they sell without the requirement for the competence, experience and legal medical ability to do so. And without this knowledge, they have great difficulty to understand or foresee the disadvantages which each specific treatment or practice can lead to with each particular patient.
How is a treatment plan carried out? Necessary resources and derived risks.
A medical professional with years of experience and continuous training uses ( and more so these days) the most cutting-edge computerized technology to carry out all of the necessary tests to be able to diagnose which pathologies or problems there are and which are the best solutions and techniques for this specific patient, because no two patients are the same. A diagnosis cannot be given by “taking a quick look” at the patient, with a panoramic x-ray and/or with a ten minute chat.
In IMCF with our patients, for both problems of the mouth and the face, we use specific software in 3D which reliably reproduces the unique anatomy of each case and allow us to plan the surgery, provisioning the possible disadvantages, the risks or the technical difficulties of each case. It also allows us to carry out simulations of the final result which helps us to communicate with the patient whilst giving information and whilst making the joint decisions which are made before the intervention.
For all of this we carry out, on all of our patients, a facial CAT scan, which is the primary test (not the ortopanoramic scan or the teleradiography) for any rigorous, professional and secure treatment. Do not trust a diagnosis and treatment plan which is based on simple radiographies. It is not always safe and these days these risks should be avoided especially as the medical technology allows us to do so.
What does an initial study consist of?
It is very important to us to transmit the following points to give an idea of what is needed before being able to give a definitive treatment plan and price estimate:
In every first visit, the patient completes and confirms an exhaustive medical questionnaire. With this medical questionnaire, we revise the state of the different organs of the patient, as well as the medication being taken, allergies, previous surgeries etc.
Often, depending on the type of surgery, state and age of the patient, a blood test is needed and occasionally medical inter-consultations with other specialists. In our Institute, the execution of our activity in a hospital environment facilitates our work for both us and the patient.
Complementary tests for facial and /or dental diagnosis.
In our Institute we attend to the problems of the face, mouth and neck.
2.1. If the consultation is regarding the rehabilitation of the mouth, the evaluation of the present oral hygiene in all its aspects is necessary.
2. 1. 1. This usually requires a series of radiographies, CAT, dental impressions, study of plaster models and various measurements and tests on these models or with the computer. Because of all of this, in many cases the price estimates cannot be given at the same time as the consultation as the patient requires previous medical treatment. We do everything possible to give the patient their price estimate within the maximum period of one week.
2. 1. 2. For other more complex problems, it may be necessary to complete tests such as an MRI scan, bone scintigraphy, PET- CT…
2. 2. If the consultation is for the Aesthetic Unit. In our centre we carry out aesthetic facial surgery making the global, facial and dental aesthetic evaluation our specialty and what makes us different from any other dental clinic.
2. 2. 1. The clinical experience together with the collection of photographic registers, image software and virtual reality as well as the communication with the centre of the fabrication of the prosthetic components is vital. Sometimes there is a need to carry out something as basic as to prefigure the result with a provisional montage of the teeth in wax to be able to decide what needs to be changed to obtain the most adequate result. The patient can see and decide which they like best. All of this requires time and enthusiasm, which is what each patient needs, and is very important for the final result and the satisfaction of the patient.
2. 2. 2. Alternatively, in more complex cases, the problems and possible solutions do not only affect one medical specialty, this is why after collecting all the possible information in an adequate medical history, the case should be discussed and agreed in Clinical Sessions by all the competent specialists.
[alert_blue]The combined knowledge of all the competent specialties allows us to carry out the treatment plans with a more amplified scientific basis, minimizing the risks.
This super specialized “globalization” is the advantage of our Centre in respect to dental or surgical clinics who work alone. Our formula gives us experience and safety in our day to day work.
Possibilities and informed decisions
As we have mentioned, on many occasions, after studying a case, there are various possibilities of treatment and we have to offer all of them to the patient so that they can make their own decision, not only with regard to the costs but also due to the types of treatments, time scales, recuperations, consequences….
A second visit will be required where the results of the previous tests will be presented to the patient and explained without technical terms, so that they can be understood and evaluated.
This second visit before the price estimate will require as much time as the patient needs to fully understand the proposals.
Once everything is fully understood it is the patient who will adopt the treatment strategy which suits them best. Giving them the joint responsibility regarding its advantages, risks, cost and long term maintenance.
To recap and conclude, retaking the initial question, “Are the first visit and price estimate free in your clinic?”
- Yes, they are free because it is only the advanced legitimate payment of the first phase of the treatment: the diagnosis which the doctor and his team have given after hours of work. If the patient decides to continue with the treatment in our clinic this amount will immediately be discounted from the total price of the treatment.
- If the patient eventually decides not to be treated in our clinic, they have actually paid a very small price for the service from the best professionals with the most cutting edge technology available to them.
- The patient obtains a product, a profound analysis of their case and a solution for it, no matter where they are eventually treated.
- It is very important to us to have the doctor-patient loyalty and trust. We look for (because we offer) a stable, long lasting and trusting relationship with our patients. “People want doctors who care about people”.