Collections in Private Practice Offices
Successful collections are of utmost importance to a successful business. As a private practice owner, in order to maintain your livelihood and keep our business running profitably, you must make collections a priority.
Strategies for Effective Collections
- Always inform your patients of all dental fees and of the office financial policy before performing any type of service. This is best presented as a part of the treatment plan, a written document. The treatment plan is an agreement between the patient and the practitioner as to what dental treatment is to be performed now and future treatment plans, with signed consent of understanding obtained. Make it clear to the patient that in the event their insurance does not pay, they are responsible for any remaining balance.
- Make all financial arrangements for payment of services prior to initiation of dental procedures. Therefore, if approval through an outside or third party lending company needs to be obtained, that process can be initiated before the patient is seen by the practitioner.
- Follow up! If you say a payment is due on a certain date be sure to call or send paper notice. Your office will lose credibility, and reimbursement, if proper follow up is not performed.
Other Important Items to Consider
- When at all possible, provide multiple payment options such as, cash, credit card, in-house lending, and third party lending.
- Make it a goal to obtain full payment for services rendered at time of service. Consider providing a cash discount of 3-5%.
- Choose carefully when hiring the employee who will follow up on collections with patients. You want to look for an employee who is patient and respectful. Often dealing with financial issues will cause tension between the client and office personnel. The patient needs to feel heard and their concerns need to be met with compassion. Have staff meetings and train staff on how to properly listen to the patient first, respond calmly, and not take the patient’s anger personally.
- If an insurance company denies a claim, ALWAYS follow up. Sometimes additional information is all that is needed to get the claim covered in part or in full.
If your office changes their method of collections, for example, switching sending mailed paper statements to collecting payments at time of service, you need to send notices IN WRITING to all current patients. Be courteous and accommodating during any period of change in regard to collection of payments, as some patients may resist doing things the “new way”.
Wait to report the patient to a collection agency only after the THIRD unpaid notice. Be willing to be flexible and accommodate unusual or unforeseen circumstances. When you send a FINAL notice...mean it! This will give the office credibility.
TIP: Design your office’s statements in a way that are clear and easy to ready in order to increase your cash flow and reduce operating costs. This will increase the amount of returned paid statements and decrease the amount of follow up calls or additional statements that need to be sent out.