What's the Policy for That?
When you’re working in a multi-doctor office (or even in a practice with multiple other providers, such as hygienists,) it’s necessary to have set policies on how patient accounts and treatments are handled.
Create an Office Manual
A written office manual is the final say-so when it comes to determining the proper protocols for things like patient accounts, employee conduct, and the like. If it’s not in the manual, add it. When another dentist or team member joins the practice, they should receive a copy of the office manual and sign a contract stating that they understand and agree to the terms set forth. Any time an addendum or change is made, a copy should be made available to the staff and a new signature acquired.
Large practices sometimes struggle with duties going undone because other people feel that it’s “not their job.” This can include the responsibilities of the other dentists - such as what needs to be done on the backend in the lab or following through with patient cases.
Without a firm grip on scheduling, rescheduling, and cancellations - your practice could find itself in the middle of an appointment nightmare. Not only can it destroy your overall production, but it also eats away at team morale as everyone starts to run behind for the rest of the day.
Establish a set policy on the amount of time allowed to patients for no-shows or late arrivals. Stick with it - whether it’s forcing them to reschedule if they show up later than 15 minutes past their appointment time, or charging a $50 fee each time they don’t come in for their visit (and not rescheduling them until it’s paid.) Yes, this can upset some people - but you don’t want to have a schedule that is built around a community of unreliable patients.
What is your policy for payments at the time of checkout (or check-in?) Does the patient pay a portion once they arrive, or a down-payment at the time of checkout? Be sure to have a signed financial agreement for each and every patient, which is kept in his or her personal file. When patients don’t pay, your office manual should instruct your staff on exactly how to handle the situation.
Likewise, dentists should refer their patients to the financial coordinators in regard to the cost of their treatment. Do not work out arrangements in the operatories, such as discounts or payments, as it creates confusion among staff, other providers, and future care plans. Word will get around, and other people will want the same exception made for their financial needs.
All payment plans need to have fixed terms and contracts - not a verbal agreement. While something like that might be ok from time to time in a single-provider practice among close friends, it is not appropriate for large multi-dentist offices.
The list could go on and on, but ultimately the owner (or partners) of the practice need to establish written policies on the ins and outs of every process that is experienced from day to day. Don't wait until it's too late.