How do I increase collections in my dental office?

How do I increase collections in my dental office?

One of the many challenges in dental practices is their dental collection process. It can get out of control due to lack of training, pre-judging a patient's ability to pay, poor communication skills, and awkwardness at quoting fees. The patient should be ready to pay for the treatment at the appointment when the provider asks.

The scariest thing about the collections is not asking for it but thinking to ask for it. Dental procedures can be expensive for the patients and frustrating for the provider and the team if collections are down. So here are a few steps to improve your dental practice's collections. Money today is better than tomorrow to increase office efficiency. 

Make the process easy and transparent: 

Create a plan for your team that should include payment guidelines like: 

  • When and how to quote fees to the patient.
  • When to expect a payment from the patient? If the dental procedure is pricey, then how to get financing?
  • What fee payment options does your dental practice offer.
  • When to send statements.
  • How to handle patient friction and smoothen payments to your dental practice.
  • When to follow up.
  • What to do if the treatment changes at the last minute. 

This flow increases the confidence in your team and reduces the chances of awkwardness in the payment discussions.  

Extending the options like 

  • Cash, check, or bank card at the rendered service, 
  • Monthly payments via financing, or 
  • Partial payments before treatment and balance at the end of the treatment, depending on the  cash-flow need, gives patients more reasons to come to your practice. 
  • Profitability may increase if you maintain collections and reduce accounts receivable (A/R). 

Inform your patients before you perform the treatment: 

Informed patients make good decisions, as 50 percent of the people listen with their ears and 50  percent with their eyes. That is why it is advisable to create written financial guidelines and treatment plans to collect payments. Putting visual signposts in the office area, like the reception room and checkout area, explains your fees and payment options before dental treatment. 

In the spirit of making it straightforward, define the team member's role in the collections, like: 

  • The receptionist has been the first point of contact to provide copies of financial guidelines to the patients. 
  • A well-trained clinical team is a trusted advisor and helps patients understand the fees and financial guidelines. 
  • The financial administrator helps make the financial decision, keeping the budgetary needs.

Proper follow-up: 

For best results, it's crucial to have consistent follow-through, without which it becomes a losing proposition. A case file of the patient beyond 90 days loses 7 percent of its value, and an account beyond 12 months becomes a liability more than your patient owes. In addition, you lose credibility if you send statements again and never follow up on time. 

The trained team should follow the four notice technique to collect the account receivables if the patient doesn't pay at the time of service. 

  • At the end of the treatment, ask the patient about the payment. Print the statement with a  stamped envelope and a copy of the payment guidelines in case of confusion. Follow up within five days if they still need to pay. 
  • Send a gentle reminder and then call the patient with a balance over 30 days past due. 
  • In 60 days, call the patient and ask for the payment. 
  • After 90 days, send a final past-due notice statement. 

Finally, after 120 days, refer the account to a debt collection agency. Before transferring the account to a debt collector, go through the regulations. 

How to improve collections? 

  • The use of collection tools helps you monitor achieving your financial goals. 
  • The dental industry preferred method of collection is 50 percent of the payment collection at the time of service via cash, check, or debit/credit card and allows no more than 5 percent of the total A/R to outstanding insurance claims. 
  • Getting professional help can also quickly improve the collection without interrupting the patient flow.

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