It can be a tricky situation.

In most patient experience surveys, the most common complaints inevitably circle back to matters dealing with payments, insurance and financial situations.

When your dental office has to talk about outstanding balances with patients, there’s a possibility for a disconnect between the parties.

After all, dental services are usually already rendered by the time questions about payments pop up. In many cases, dental offices provide an estimate based on dental coverage and bill the patient for their share of the cost. If the insurance responds by paying less than initially expected, it’s the responsibility of the dental office to engage the customer about the remaining balance.

This predicament can be a tricky one to navigate as the patient’s emotions can run high. Finding a resolution and responding to patients’ frustrations can be draining on staff, as well.

To ensure quality customer service as it relates to conversations about outstanding balances, take a look at the following guidance about how to tactfully and effectively address this delicate issue. As you’ll read below, timing is your biggest ally.

Monthly statements

Patients will receive monthly statements once the explanation of benefits is received and no other insurance payments are expected. At this point, patients will either pay the balance or phone your office to ask about the billing.

This can be an optimal time to reach out to patients about outstanding balances. The first step is for the office manager to thoroughly review all the financial documents to determine balances, how they came about and other details. Comprehensive notes should be easy to review on the patient’s file and every staff member should be apprised of the patient’s current billing status for a cohesive experience.

With all the information at the ready, your dental office can reach out to patients to explain the billing and answer any questions about their costs. Now that the team is prepared, your office can avoid giving out conflicting information, which can only further complicate matters and frustrate both patients and staff.

Proactively reaching out to patients in coordination with billing statements allows your office to both prepare for a conversation with all the facts on hand, and do so at an appropriate time.

Scheduled treatments

Another ideal time to discuss outstanding balances with patients is during and before scheduled treatments. In most cases, patients will return for follow-up visits without much time passing since their last visit. However, it’s likely enough time has passed to allow for the insurance process to unfold. By this time, your office will also know about any outstanding balances.

During scheduling, staff can discuss any balances due and what needs to be collected at the time of the next appointment. It’s important to discuss the previous balance and the expected out-of-pocket cost moving forward. The scheduler can confirm that payment will be made before or at the time of the next scheduled visit. This natural connection between billing and office follow-up allows dental offices to approach billing questions with minimal headaches on either end.

Cleaning or other dental work

A lot of time can lapse between patient visits. If there is no follow-up appointment scheduled for the treatment in question, dental offices can discuss any outstanding balance during other appointments, such as routine cleanings.

Unfortunately, waiting for their next recommended visit also means that the unpaid bill could sit for some time.

While it’s not ideal to wait, three, six or nine months, patients are more likely to make good on payments during an office visit.

The hygiene scheduler can take this opportunity to talk about an outstanding balance owed before confirming appointments. This is also the time to agree upon a repayment date, which should be set before the upcoming appointment. The dental office should take detailed notes of the discussion and also be prepared for a bill consult with the patient on the day of the appointment.

When the patient arrives for the appointment, the staff member handling the check-in should go over what was previously discussed and be prepared to answer any questions. This face-to-face interaction is an opportune time to review balances and get the ball rolling on repayment.

Remote billing

The administrative work of collecting payments and consulting with patients about insurance complications can drain a lot of resources.

With remote billing assistance, dental offices can gain much-needed support and regain their resources and time to focus instead on patient care and customer service.

Remote billing professionals will handle the everyday nitty-gritty that is accounts receivables, saving your dental office time and resources. This cost-saving service is available at a flat rate and gives your team access to a team of experts who can tackle any billing complication to get you paid more and faster. At the end of the day, your dental office can worry less about administrative tasks and focus more on delivering high-quality dental care and service.

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