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Financial responsibility: How to talk about it with your patients

Oct. 23, 2020
Money is often considered an uncomfortable topic, but patients like to know what's expected of them before treatment. John O'Connor advises your front office team be able to discuss payment options with patients. Then watch your bottom line grow.

“Does my insurance not cover this?”

“I was not aware this was going to cost so much.”

“Is there a cheaper option? I just can’t afford this right now.”

If you’ve spent any time at the front office of a dental practice, you’ve heard people say these things. Maybe you’ve even made remarks like these when you were a patient!

In our society, talking about money is always seen as a little uncomfortable, something that should be glossed over quickly, if discussed at all. However, discussing financial responsibility with patients is a key to managing expectations, getting payments on time and in full, and improving your patients’ experience at each step of their treatment. Start the conversation early and make it more successful by having the information and tools your patients will need to fulfill their financial responsibilities.

Use your online presence to begin the conversation

Today’s new patients often visit your website or Facebook page before calling to schedule their first appointment. Be sure that you have a page devoted solely to insurance and financial responsibility. This will not only cut down on the number of calls your front office must field regarding insurance and payment plans, but it will give prospective patients the impression that you understand and value their desire to find affordable care.

Clearly list pertinent insurance information, as well as any medical payment plans your office accepts, complete with applications and information links. Payment portals are also a big plus for payment convenience and increased collection rates. 

Make the most of a patient’s first visit

Once a patient steps through the door, share and discuss financial aspects with the person. Include easy-to-read financial information sheets with intake paperwork, and coach your front office team to talk about payment plans at every new patient’s checkout process. Some patients may think “payment plans” don’t apply to them, so addressing them face-to-face in a casual and approachable tone can help them understand the value of a payment plan. By explaining your policies regarding payment, insurance estimates, collections, financing options, and payment plans upfront, patients can become familiar with your policies before receiving more costly care.

Remind patients before costly treatments

While discussing payment policies and available payment solutions at the beginning is a good practice, patients may forget everything by the time costly treatment rolls around. To stay ahead of this situation, consider sending a standard, informative email to patients before treatments that are beyond a dental recall cleaning and exam. Use it as a reminder to help them understand what will be expected at the time of treatment, and what options there are based on your payment plans. Front office staff can reference the email and its details in their appointment confirmation call. This will allow patients to ask questions and get more information regarding financial responsibility before they arrive for their appointment.

Make financial responsibility integral to your patient experience

The key to managing patient expectations and starting valuable financial conversations is showing patients—from their first interaction with your practice—that you do not shy away from financial discussions or use vague statements to address patients’ responsibility. By keeping patients informed ahead of treatments, you can help eliminate those not-so-nice surprises when it comes time to make a payment.

For information on how to create a seamless patient payment experience using innovative, integrated software designed for dental practices just like yours, visit strongboxesolutions.com.

John O’Connor is CEO of StrongBox eSolutions, a leading health-care revenue cycle management and patient finance platform. StrongBox’s cloud-based application offers patient payment convenience, and provider profitability, efficiency, and security. O’Connar is a frequent speaker at top industry events. He enjoys sharing time with his family, traveling, running, biking. He also enjoys reading, writing, cooking and music.