If your dental practice ranks within the average offices in the United States, nearly 20 percent of your accounts receivable is over 90 days old. As those accounts continue to age, statistics show you’re less likely to receive that payment from your patients. Late patient accounts are a challenge every dental practice management team will face, but by developing a strategic plan, your office can greatly reduce the number of late accounts.

Consider the time your patient advocate or other staff members dedicated to the past due accounts. Tie those late patient accounts to the time your front office spends attempting to correct and collect insurance claims, and the majority of your staff’s time is spent in billing.

Patient satisfaction is negatively affected when your team is constantly dealing with billing issues. Patients are placed on hold when they call the office as your staff works with insurance companies and in-house patients aren’t greeted warmly as your team waits on the phone for an insurance rep to respond.

As your dental practice management team considers the best ways to tackle late patient accounts, avoid these top mistakes.

Failing to offer transparent pricing: An unexpected costly dental bill can upset anyone, so offer upfront pricing with your patients. Take the time to explain the expected patient portion of the bill based on their insurance plan. This is a great opportunity to establish how the patient will cover the expense. Many dental practice management teams offer:

  • Dental financing plans, like CareCredit
  • Payment options that allow the patient to break up large amounts over time
  • When possible, offer staggered appointments to complete treatment, breaking the financial responsibility into two to three payments

Keep in mind that one-third of American adults age 19-64 do not have any dental coverage, so offering ways for patients to more easily pay will increase your patient satisfaction and decrease late accounts.

Making payments difficult: Americans pay 56 percent of their bills online. If your dental practice management software isn’t offering an online payment option, you’re losing money. The dental offices that send out bills with a circled amount due, no return envelope or detachable payment portion are more likely to have those mailings placed in the trash than paid.

Make it easy for your patients to pay for their services. Offer an online payment portal on your website. Nearly three quarters (72%) of online bill payments are made on a biller’s website, growing 18 percent since 2010.

Young adults age 26-34 are the most likely group to purchase dental benefits and seek dental care, but only 8 percent of that age group is willing to write a check to pay a bill. Invest in an online and mobile payment hub for your patients.

Not working with a dental insurance billing company: When your staff isn’t forced to follow up again and again with insurance companies regarding a submitted claim, they have more time to invest in your patients. Skilled dental insurance billing companies stay abreast of changing billing codes and are familiar with how to communicate with the insurers to get claims paid more quickly. When you work with a dental insurance billing company, you pay only for what’s collected by the company. You don’t waste time and money for your staff to sit on hold or constantly check the status of submitted claims. Pass the work (and headache) on to a company whose specialty it is to deal with dental insurance claims.

Failure to collect in person: Set a standard in your dental office that patients will pay for services at the time of the appointment. Ensure that your office staff understands what’s expected. Whether your policy is to collect the account balance, a minimum due, or a co-pay, collect the payment while the patient is in the office to build a reliable cash flow for the practice.

Part of collecting amounts due in person is ensuring your patients are aware of the policy and your staff feels confident in requesting payment. Include a payment policy sheet within your new patient packets, post signs in the office if warranted and include the policy on all bills you send to patients. It may also be beneficial to provide your staff with a script on how to politely handle overdue accounts. When a script is provided, all patients are receiving the same information.

Delaying contact: When past due accounts begin to build, rely on your team to keep track. If your dental practice management software and front office staff lose track of the late accounts, you can expect the same from the patient. Reach out to the patient in a courteous, consistent way.

Run a new report each day of accounts that are past due. Prioritize the accounts for which will need to be contacted first. Send itemized invoices, follow up with phone calls, and place an alert on accounts that need to be paid so the staff can ask in person when the patient arrives for their next appointment.

Ignoring patient satisfaction ratings: Patients who are satisfied with your services are more likely to pay their bill. A study by Connance found 74 percent of satisfied patients paid their medical bills in full, compared to 33 percent of their lesser satisfied counterparts. When your patients are happy, they’re willing to pay for your good service.

When your staff is able to engage and personally recognize each patient, patient satisfaction increases. The patient feels they are more than a number when they’re recognized by name and the front office staff is courteous. Offer patient satisfaction surveys, read online reviews, and engage with your patients to learn where the office has an opportunity to grow.
By partnering with a trusted dental insurance billing company, your dental practice staff has more time to interact with patients. Patients are more satisfied with the services and your past due accounts begin to dwindle. Take the time to explore the benefits of a dental billing company to see if the service is a good fit for your practice. Schedule your free discovery call with Better Practice Solutions today.

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