Dental office collections need to be at 98% to survive. But many practices allow patients to drag out payments, or worse, they don't collect all that they're owed.
Firm and no nonsense financial policies are a must, then make sure patients are informed about the policies.
A firm, written, no nonsense financial policy is vital to the health of your dental practice. It is the job of the treatment coordinator to ensure all patients sign off on it. This creates the perfect opportunity to educate patients on how dental insurance really works, i.e., insurance companies are in business to make a profit, which often interferes with a patient being approved for the best possible care.
If your treatment coordinator spends a little extra time ensuring patients understand how the insurance game works, it will be much smoother later on to make financial arrangements. The patient will already be “inoculated with the disease,” which will reduce sticker shock and patients becoming upset.
Here are my recommendations for payment options. Use or modify as you see fit when creating a firm financial policy for your practice:
a) Tell the patient how much the insurance company is expected to pay.
b) Tell the patient you will bill the insurance company for that amount.
c) Inform the patient he or she is responsible for that amount if the insurance company doesn't pay.
d) Collect the balance before or at the time of service.
e) If the insurance payment is not received within at least 30 days, inform the patient so he or she has a chance to contact the insurance company. With electronic billing you can even reduce this time to 20 days.
f) If you still don’t hear from the insurance company after 45 days, collect the balance from the patient.
a) Prepay option—Offer a 5% courtesy discount on treatment over $500. Note: Some offices offer this only to non-insurance patients. If you offer it to insured patients make sure to check with the insurance company for their specific rules.
b) Offer 12 months same as cash based on an approved credit application, with 0% interest if it’s paid within 12 months. See CareCredit (or alternate company) for information.
c) Payment at time of service—If need be, payment can be split over appointments if the treatment takes more than one visit. Offer only if patients ask.
3. Long appointments and lab cases
a) If an appointment will take two or more hours, require a deposit. Explain that you’ve had times in the past when a patient did not show up for a long appointment and the dentist and assistants ended up sitting around doing nothing for three hours.
b) A deposit is smart because the patient will take the appointment more seriously, and you can also weed out those who aren't serious.
c) Recommended deposits for long appointments—Fee-for service patients: Collect a deposit of at least 50%. Insurance: Collect the co-pay as the deposit.
d) I do not recommend non-refundable deposits as you will likely lose the patient. You can still charge a cancel or no-show fee.
e) Do not require a deposit for established, reliable patients.
f) Have patients pay 50% up front for lab cases.
g) Ensure patients understand and sign off on any such agreements. This is key.
h) Any exceptions need to be signed off by the doctor.
Attributes of staff who are exceptional at financial arrangements
a) They are truly enthusiastic about dentistry and the skill of the dentist. This kind of positive attitude is huge. It cannot be faked.
b) They do an excellent job of explaining, in lay terms, the benefits of treatment.
c) They are very interested in patients’ oral health.
d) They are excellent listeners.