If you don’t know how to collect from your patients, all the spa amenities in the world won’t move the bottom line! Here are our best collection of tips so that you can ensure your office is profiting from all the new patients you are seeing and larger treatment you are doing!
1. Be proactive.Have established guidelines about collecting payment in your financial policy that all new patients sign. Have financial discussions in advance of large treatments so the patient knows your expectations. Your scheduling coordinator/front desk person should be able to let the patient know payment is expected the day of services and be able to let the patient know cost. This discussion should be held when putting the treatment in the schedule. Pre-authorize the treatment for the most accurate data.
2. Estimate co-pays for every appointment at least a day in advance. Have the patient responsibility noted on the appointment so that team member checking out knows what to collect when the person is in front of them (rushing to do math while the patient is standing there is not ideal!). For patients with insurance, estimate based on the percentage for the type of service they are having (example: 80% for basic restorative). Collect the patients deductible if they haven’t met it yet at minimum. Coach the patient that you will inform them of any differences once the treatment goes through insurance so that they are prepared that they owe more.
3. Have the clinical team member last working with the patient (assistant or hygienist) walk each patient up to the front desk for hand off. If the front desk person is on the phone or otherwise occupied, the clinical team member can simply state, “When Marsha is off the phone, she will get you checked out!” Let the patient know that this is part of the process and that they are expected to wait.
4. Use the PAUSE.Your front office person should be trained to say, “Here is what is due today, how would you like to take care of that?” PAUSE. Sometimes this conversation is uncomfortable so people have a tendency to talk the patient out of paying, without meaning to of course! Stop talking, smile, pause, and wait for the patient to pay.
5. If a patient is not willing or able to pay the day of service, be sure to secure a next step.Get the patient to commit paying in some fashion – “Ok, you’re planning to pay when you receive the statement? That should arrive to your home in the next week or so.” Let the patient know kindly that the expectation is that services are paid for the day of treatment. Set up a payment plan or provide Care Credit or other options if needed.
6. Follow Up!If the patient told you they would call back later that day with their HSA card, give them a call the next day to grab that information if they haven’t called. Hold them accountable for the next step you both decided on. If the patient hasn’t paid their bill after two statements have been sent and received, start reaching out over phone and/or email. Make sure you are vague in these correspondences for legal purposes but encourage the patient to get in touch with you. Set up a payment plan at minimum. The first 30 days is your best window for collecting. If an account ages past 90 days, the likelihood that you’ll ultimately need to send the account to collections is high.
7. Ensure a patient with a delinquent account does not have upcoming appointments. If so, encourage the patient to pay prior to that next appointment so the balance does not climb higher with no forward movement on paying off their debt. Does your office have a policy of not completing additional work for patients with an outstanding balance? If not, perhaps this is something to add into the financial policy!
Martin Management is a dental consulting firm that helps dental offices transform their practice into a dental spa and soothe patient fears while offering spa-like amenities and significantly growing their practice.