In general, the majority of patients understand the value and importance of good dental hygiene. They return to visit your practice time and again for routine visits and specialized treatment when needed.
A practice’s commitment to excellent dental care, however, can be met by unfavorable client circumstances that lead to missed payments and, occasionally, escalations in attempts to collect payment. It isn’t a position any dental patient or office wants to be in.
As unpleasant as it might be, dental offices need to be prepared to navigate the various patient scenarios that can occur when dealing with missed payments.
A collections process and policy will provide clear guidance to both staff and patients on how to move forward in these situations. Collections procedures will streamline and track communications and progress so that your office can maintain its financial health while focusing on what matters most: patients’ dental health.
First steps to collecting payment
While it’s ideal to ask patients for payment upfront or at the time of service, the practice does not always align with patient expectations.
Many dental leaders agree that it’s a prudent practice to collect the patient’s portion of payment even while the insurance paperwork is in progress. This simple solution can significantly reduce the number of collections managed by dental offices.
Approaching patients about non-payment
Despite your front office team’s best efforts, missed payments always remain a possibility, even with upfront payment policies in place. For example, patients will let dental offices know that payment is on the way, but it might not arrive as promised.
So, when is the appropriate time to make first contact and inquiry about the payment?
It’s a good guideline to begin to broach the topic after 30 days of non-payment. This grace period gives patients plenty of time to catch up and take steps toward making a payment. After 30 days, dental offices should begin making formal contact through a phone call, text or email to remind them that payment is overdue.
The goal of communication is to make a polite request for payment and to remind the patient when the payment was due. While not always pleasant, a straightforward approach is typically needed to get the collections process started.
Here are some general guidelines that can make this task a little more palatable for everyone involved.
- Always inform the patient about your practice’s payment policy before any treatment is rendered.
- Patients should be well informed about payment expectations and have all their related questions answered.
- An FAQ sheet about these topics is helpful and should contain clear guidance on how and when to pay.
Additionally, scripts can be put together for initial and follow-up communication with patients. Staff members should be well trained and feel comfortable with scripts and possible responses from the patient since objections are inevitable. Here are some guidelines to help.
- Within the script, team members should anticipate certain questions and have responses prepared for those.
- Run through possible responses from the patient and script out how you would respond.
- While not ideal, team members should be prepared for an escalation roadmap, especially if they are unable to diffuse the tension or reach any kind of common ground.
- It should go without saying that it’s very important to remain calm and professional, even if the patient has lost their cool.
In every instance, dental offices should document every conversation for future reference. This is also an opportunity to review what works well and what doesn’t. Include times, dates and other details about the call that can be easily reviewed.
Flexibility as a strategy
Collections policies must also have some wiggle room. While it’s probably not a good idea to extend a repayment-related courtesy to a large number of patients, a policy that focuses on ease of payment for customers is ideal.
Flexible payment options, financing, repayment plans and memberships are some of the tools your practice can use to make it easy for patients to get caught up on their payments. This flexibility will also reinforce goodwill and increase patients’ capacity and willingness to make good on payments.
Compassion, empathy and understanding are also key ingredients. Staff members should always communicate their understanding of patients’ financial situations and hardships. This reaffirms the commitment to patients’ well-being while they get through bumps in the road.
Enhanced path to getting paid
Adams Dental Consulting offers remote billing services that help ensure prompt and accurate payment without draining team resources.
Our experienced team knows the ins and outs of billing and claims and will streamline payment processes so your office can focus on patient care. Contact us to learn about our risk-free assessment and how you can get on the new and improved path to getting paid.