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Suzanne Rassy has 25 years of experience in the dental industry. Throughout the course of her career she has had the opportunity to work as a dental assistant, treatment plan coordinator, office manager, dental consultant and educator. In her capacity as the manager of education for Mercer Advisors, she led the team that launched a new service offering for dental clients and their teams. She has designed and delivered courses for dental team members and contributed to the development of the OnTrack software. She has also worked with the Canadian Dental Association, responsible for organizing dental conventions, and has offered her services and knowledge as a consultant for over 10 years.
The greatest strength of any business lies in the ability to bring in revenue for existence and growth. Since dental treatment is seen as a discretionary expense for most patients, this mindset may be affecting your collection ratio and ultimately cash flow. The challenge is to find a way for patients to comfortably afford the dentistry you are recommending.
There are opportunities to improve your practice’s cash flow by focusing on the way you deal with patients’ investments for dental care. Closing the gap between what you are billing out and how much revenue is coming in is key. Many patients come into a dental practice thinking insurance will be covering all their dental needs. Therefore, it is up to the dental team to provide clarity about what insurance will and will not cover.
An essential strategy to improving and maximizing collections is asking for payment at the time service is rendered. For some practices this behavior is innate, while others struggle with the mere concept. But one thing is certain ... when a patient leaves your practice without paying it costs you more in labor, time and relationships. Outstanding balances are always harder to collect, and most of the time is spent playing phone tag with patients who may simply be avoiding your team’s follow-up calls.
So how do you make it easier for your team to simply ask for payment? First of all, practice is needed for team members to become comfortable. Consider role-playing this conversation during a team meeting and have one team member play the part of the patient. The old adage of “practice makes perfect” will have a positive impact on the team’s ease in asking for payment on the day of service.
Secondly, clear communication between the team member and the patient is an important element. If patients know ahead of time exactly what their investment is for their treatment, how you expect to be paid and within what time frame, there is a much greater likelihood that the patient will comply.
Your practice should have a clearly documented financial policy to support the conversation. As financial options are discussed, the team should document the patient’s decision surrounding the method of payment and the terms to which they agree. It is also important to have the patient sign the Financial Investment Form before they are given a copy. From a proactive standpoint, this leaves no stone unturned and all aspects of the discussion clearly documented for future reference.
Your morning huddle is the perfect opportunity to evaluate your progress. The administrative team should make note of any patients scheduled for the day that have an outstanding balance or a financial concern. Discuss these patients and decide on an appropriate action plan to help the patient get caught up on their investment. As you continue to focus on proactively collecting for your services, you will not only see an improvement in cash flow but also in team alignment and patient relationship.
Note: This article is sponsored by Patterson Dental as part of the Dental Practice Management Partner Voice Program, which provides a way for leading dental manufacturers to share quality content with our audience. Patterson Dental offers a wide range of dental products including Eaglesoft Practice Management Software, CAESY Patient Education Systems and the RevenueWell marketing communications suite, which are backed by the renowned support and customer service team at the Patterson Technology Center. With multiple support options and more than 125 years experience in the dental industry, Patterson has the resources and expertise to help customers and practices reach their greatest potential.