3 Keys to Successful Collections in a Dental Practice
- Be Clear from the Beginning: First, you must always start your patient relationships by defining your fees and your financial policies. It’s unfair to expect patients to follow your policies if they don’t know what they are, particularly if you have strict rules surrounding things like late fees or partial payments. Include this information in your new patient paperwork and have patients sign that they understand their treatment plan or financial obligations when you are proceeding with treatment.Even though more and more “paperwork” is handled electronically, your payment policy may be one thing you still give to your patients in hard copy.
- When Implementing Changes, Be Enthusiastic: Every dental practice isn’t perfect right off the bat, which means that some of your oldest and most loyal patients could be impeding successful collections in a dental practice!When you implement changes, like asking for payment immediately instead of sending a statement later, always be enthusiastic. For example, explain what portion of the fee should be covered by insurance and what portion is the patient’s obligation. Follow that by asking the patient how they would like to pay. If they ask to send a statement as per your old policy, let them know you set up new payment guidelines. Share that you can now take payment immediately in order to cut down on phone tag and make things easier for everyone. In the same vein, be understanding of old patients adjusting to new policies by extending them a courtesy. In the scenario above, you could offer to mail a courtesy statement with a copy of the new policy for the first occasion and then follow the new policy for future visits.
- Be Consistent with Past-Due Payments: Consistency is the key to successful collections in a dental practice. If patients don’t think you will actually charge the late fee or make the reminder phone call, why would they bother to pay promptly? In most cases, we recommend a four-notice rule, which means three notices of the past-due status before taking formal collections action. Start with the initial statement and follow it with a 30-day notice and 60-day notice.Always follow-up with a phone call after 30 and 60 days as well. Some practices even make a call to the patient before the 60 and 90-day periods are up. If you have not heard anything, send the final 90-day notice and then proceed with formal collections action. If every notice is a “final” notice, you will rapidly lose credibility and patients will not believe you are serious.
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