Dental Debt Collection Tips: Surviving the Holidays + Tax Season Planning!
For most dental practices, the holiday season often means fewer appointments, slow-paying patients, and an overall decrease in revenue. The month of December brings a rise in consumer expenditures with many people spending their disposable income on travel, gift giving, and holiday-related expenses in general. In fact, according to the American Research Group, Americans are planning to spend an average of $801 on gifts alone this holiday season. Unfortunately, this increase in spending in December means your patients will have less money to pay their dental bills in January and February. As a dentist or dental office manager, it is important to take note of consumer spending patterns during this time, as it is more difficult for you and your staff to collect patient payments when patients, in general, have less money to spare.
The Good News … Tax Season!
Fortunately for dental debt collection and billing purposes, the end of the holiday season means the beginning of tax season! And while your patients will see a drop in their disposable income from December to February, they will in turn likely receive an income boost from tax returns in March and April. You and your dental debt collections staff need to take advantage of this tax return income and increase your collection efforts during this crucial period. According to survey conducted by Braun Research of Princeton N.J., last year 85% of Americans expected to receive a tax refund, with 22% of Americans planning on using their refund to pay off unpaid debt. Don’t make the mistake of overlooking your patients’ tax refunds as a potential source of revenue for your dental practice – as any dental debt collection professional will tell you, the key to debt recovery is convincing people to want to pay, as opposed to telling them they have to pay. And by reminding your patients of their extra tax return income, you should have an easier time persuading them to want to pay off their unpaid dental debts.
In addition to capitalizing on extra tax return income, don’t forget to utilize the collection methods provided in our previous post, 3 Effect Strategies for Faster Dental Debt Collection Recovery! As a reminder, here is a brief summary of three quick and easy ways to drastically improve your patient billing and collection processes:
Tip 1: Educate Patients on the Billing Process in Advance
- Thoroughly explain the patient billing process when the patient checks in.
- Explain the available payment options and bill details before providing service.
- Create easy to understand billing statements that provide all the essential information for making payment and paying on time.
- Send invoices immediately after service and call patients as soon as bills become past due.
Tip 2: Provide Payment Plans and Incentivize Early Payments
- Offer payment plans in the form of installment plans, partial payments, or deferred payment arrangements to slow-paying patients.
- Discount a small percentage off patient’s bills when payment is received before the bill comes due.
- Find mutually agreeable payment arrangements that work both for your patients and for your dental practice.
Tip 3: Avoid Insurance Disputes
- Inform patients of their insurance policies upon first visit.
- Carefully explain the patient’s insurance coverage (premiums, deductibles, copay amounts etc.)
- Be proactive! Anticipate any possible insurance disputes and begin the billing and collection process as soon as possible.
So start off 2014 with a game plan for your A/R management and dental debt recovery processes. Use the strategies listed above and remember to teach your office managers and collections staff about consumer spending during the holidays and tax season. Make the payment process as easy as possible for your patients and don’t forget to encourage them to take advantage of their tax refunds – it could make a big difference to your dental practice’s bottom line!
YOUR TURN: Have you noticed the trends outlined in this post at YOUR dental clinic or practice? How does your office deal with the holiday period when it comes to billing and collections? Let us know in the comments!