This article first appeared in Dental Assisting & Office Manager Digest. To receive enlightening and helpful articles for assistants and office managers in this monthly e-newsletter, visit dentistryiq.com/subscribe.
Why do many people cancel or avoid dental appointments? Often it’s their fear of the high costs. On the flipside of that, the fear of presenting fees causes many dental team members to dread or avoid presenting treatment plans and asking for payment. These fears are not helping patients or the practice.
Would you like to see more patients not only accept treatment but pay for it before or at time of service? Would you like to see an increase in production and office collections? Would you like to decrease the amount of time and money being spent on making collection calls and sending patient statements? I’m guessing your answers are yes.
Here I’ll share with you some tips to make these things happen.
1. See the true value of dentistry—With each day and each patient you and your team have the opportunity to potentially change someone’s life, or at the very least help them with a healthier smile. A healthy smile is part of a healthy body, and healthy smiles and bodies create healthy communities. The entire team must believe this. The team must also truly believe that you provide the best quality care. Having full confidence in the doctor’s and hygienist’s ability to provide quality care and create healthy smiles is a must.
2. Be confident with fees—The entire team should role play presenting treatment plans and financial arrangements until everyone is comfortable saying the dollar amounts out loud and with pride.
3. Have a strong financial policy—Have a written financial policy and review it with patients at their first appointment. Have them sign and take a copy with them. For your existing patients, review with them any changes to your financial policies, have them sign, and give them a copy to take home.
4. Avoid assumptions and judgment—Don’t make decisions for any patients regarding whether or not they can afford treatment based on your assumptions. Remember this—sympathy vs. empathy. Sympathy is feeling for patients, deciding for them that they can’t afford the dental care. Empathy is feeling with patients. Yes, treatment probably costs more than they want to pay, however, you’re giving them hope. You should offer third party financing, break up the treatment plan if possible, or allow patients to make payments as a credit until they have enough money to get started with treatment. Always offer the best treatment and flexible payment options and let patients decide what they want to accept.
5. Leave no room for surprises—Present the treatment plan and financial portion before treatment is started. Make sure your numbers are as accurate as possible, especially when estimating the insurance portion. If you accept certain insurances, have up-to-date eligibility, break down of benefits, and have the insurance fee schedule on file for patients.
6. Make payment due on or before day of service—Do not bill patients for copays or payment for services. Hint: collecting prior to an appointment will reduce cancellations and no-shows. Another hint: Collect copays before patients go back for treatment, especially if they have a lengthy or difficult appointment. No one wants to stand at the front desk fumbling for money or writing a check with gauze hanging out of their mouth, or when they’re numb and exhausted. Make it comfortable for them by collecting their payment and making any necessary followup appointments before they go in for treatment.
7. Make it easy for patients to pay—In addition to accepting cash, check, and charge cards, offer third party financing. Avoid in-office payment plans.
8. Offer incentives—Offer incentives for patients to pay when they make their appointment.
9. Assist forgetful patients—When patients say they forgot to bring money, they can either call the payment in when they get home, or you can give them an envelope with a payment due date for them to mail in a check. Call patients if payment isn’t received by the due date.
10. What to do when insurance is involved—Always give the full treatment fee, the estimated insurance amount, and the patient’s estimated copay that is due at time of treatment. Let patients know you’ll send in the claim and inform them if anything changes. Watch your insurance aging report closely. Promptly follow up on any unpaid claims, insurance rejections, and requests for additional information.
Once you make a plan to consistently collect payments before or at time of service and hold your team accountable to follow through with this plan, you’ll wish you had started it sooner.
I’m happy to help you and your team develop a plan to reach your production and collection goals. I offer complimentary consultations via email at [email protected].
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