The goal for your dental practice should be to get paid for the service received on the day treatment is rendered. Unfortunately, there are a number of challenges that can make this seemingly simple goal very hard to achieve. The logistics alone of waiting for the dental insurance claim to be processed means your office doesn’t get paid in full until the insurance company processes the paperwork.
Even with a well-established payment policy – which is highly recommended – the unexpected can occur. The insurance company pays less than the projected amount, leaving your patient with a higher out-of-pocket expense that originally estimated, or your patient cancels their next appointment, leaving a remaining balance on the books until the patient reschedules.
As you consider how to get dental patients to pay on time, incorporate these five practices into your office to see a financial benefit.
1. Make Payment For Services Due Before Or On Day Of Treatment
As we mentioned before, you should have an established, written payment procedure. Part of your dental office payment policy should be for patients to pay co-pays or service fees before the appointment begins. Handling payment before the appointment allows your front office staff to avoid excessive billing throughout the month. It’s also more comfortable for patients so they’re not waiting for you to look up a balance due, searching for a payment method, and signing receipts with gauze in their mouth or a numb cheek.
Make it easy for patients to pay prior to the appointment. Offer as many payment methods as possible. Accept cash, credit card payment, check, or third-party financing, like CareCredit. Avoid in-office financing and if you do offer payment plans, attempt to spread the balance amongst no more than three monthly payments. Once an account ages beyond 90 days, you lose 7 percent of the value of that balance every month.
2. Give Patients A Choice
The treatments a patient needs to complete their full-mouth dental plan could cost several hundred dollars or several thousand. By simply telling the patient the amount due, you’re likely to get a response of, “I can’t pay that,” or they may simply cancel the appointment. Rather than giving the patient their expected cost and asking for a payment method, give them choices.
Begin a conversation about how they can afford the oral care they need. Remind the patient of your office payment options and invite them to divide the costs amongst different methods. Use the payment calculator on your office’s third-party financing website to create a monthly payment plan through the finance company. By breaking down the treatment fees into digestible amounts or accepting multiple payment methods, you help relieve the patient’s stress while also creating a way for the office to get paid for the services.
3. Avoid A Statement Schedule In Your Office
Many dental offices have a set schedule of when patient billing is complete. But the sooner your patient receives the bill, the more likely you are to get paid. By only billing patients on set dates each month, you run the risk of an extended period of time passing before you make contact with the patient. For example, if a patient receives services on the 19th, and your billing date is the 20th, you’ll have to wait an entire month before you can bill the patient since the dental insurance claim will likely not be processed that day. Over the span of 30 days, your patient will receive and forget about the EOB they get from the insurance company. By the time your patient receives the bill, the service is all but forgotten.
Patients are more likely to pay outstanding balances when they can clearly recall the service rendered. Once an appointment is complete, immediately file the dental insurance claim. When the claim is processed and you have an exact amount the patient owes, send the statement immediately rather than waiting on a specific day. With many dental management software systems, online billing makes it easy to send a statement via email. Your office no longer must print, seal, and stamp the bill. Offering online payment will help your office avoid time lost by stuffing envelopes, the hassle of a patient’s address change, or lost mail.
4. Work With A Dental Insurance Billing Company
By utilizing a reliable dental insurance billing company, you take a large billing responsibility off of your front office staff. When your staff isn’t on the phone waiting for information from the insurance company or attempting to resubmit a dental insurance claim, they have time to communicate with patients. More face time with patients enhances the dental office experience. It also means that when patients call with questions about a statement, your staff has the time to explain any fees and offer payment options.
A positive experience for patients who call with billing questions can result in more outstanding balances being paid. The Connance Consumer Impact Survey of 2018 reports that just over 75 percent of patients paid their bills either in full or in stages when they were satisfied with their billing experience. Conversely, only about 50 percent of patients who had a negative experience paid their statement balance. Working with a dental insurance billing company also reduces the overhead cost of paying a billing specialist.
5. Be Upfront And Transparent With Treatment Fees
Patients are more likely to withhold payment of a bill if they don’t understand why they’re being charged a certain amount. Take the time to explain to each patient that the out-of-pocket expense is based on the estimated amount the insurance provider will pay. The patient may be responsible for more if the dental insurance company pays less than projected.
Explain the full cost of the treatment, how much the patient’s insurance is expected to cover and the patient’s estimated cost upfront. Explaining each portion of the fee also makes way for the payment option conversation before treatment. If the patient needs to consider where they will come up with the money, they now have an estimated amount they will need.
Establish a set payment policy and ensure everyone in your office is following the same guidelines. Your staff will feel more comfortable having the payment conversation with patients. Utilize a dental insurance billing company to handle that portion of your finances so your office staff can focus on patient collections and improving patient satisfaction. Learn more about the services offered by dental insurance billing companies and how they can help improve your office.