Putting Your Front Desk Staff on the Front Lines of Patient Collections!
Who in your office is primarily responsible for collecting unpaid patient bills? Is it you? Your office manager? An outside collection agency? We believe your front desk staff can and should be handling the majority of these accounts.
Because who else in your office is better positioned to not only communicate best with your slow-paying patients, but understand why they may have failed to pay in the first place? The answer is nobody! After all, during a typical patient visit your front desk personnel are the only ones who interact with patients multiple times. The first point of contact is when the patient checks in for their appointment. At this time, it is critical that your front desk staff provide patients with a clear estimate of their bill as well as how much will be covered by insurance. Have your front desk staff educate patients on their insurance coverage and carefully explain the different payment options they have for the amount that is not covered. As we’ve discussed in previous posts, this preemptive approach to collections can go a long way in reducing delinquencies and insurance disputes.
But what else can your front desk do to reduce patient delinquencies and your practice’s bad debt? Here are three easy-to-implement strategies your dental office can start following today:
Hire the Right Person in the First Place!
Don’t take the task of hiring a front desk receptionist/administrator lightly. These members of your team do a lot more than simply answer the phone and schedule appointments. As we’ve mentioned, these team members should be playing a large role in your accounts receivable management and patient collection processes. We often suggest hiring someone with a background in sales so as to find someone who is not only a good communicator, but has experience handling those often awkward conversations that commonly accompany closing a sale or settling a bill. In addition, we believe an effective way to approach dental collections is to look at it as “making a sale”. Coach your front desk staff to sell patients on paying their bill by using financial freedom as the product they are selling. When speaking with a delinquent patient, make sure your administrators are focusing on the benefit the patient will enjoy from paying their bill, as opposed to the benefit to your office. By doing so, patients will likely be much happier to settle their account and will in turn pay their bill much faster.
Monitor Patient Accounts Diligently
Every time a patient is checking out of your office, make sure your front desk is reviewing their account and payment history. It is all too easy to see a patient walking out of your clinic and to simply wave goodbye and thank them for coming in to see you. Don’t let them go just yet! Confirm that the patient is current on all past bills and that no previously provided services have not been paid for in full. Train your receptionists and administrators to understand patient account summaries as well as your bill pay processes so that payments can be obtained swiftly and without confusion on your end. Oftentimes patients simply need a friendly reminder and may have forgotten about a past bill and will happy to pay you that day for previous visits.
As the saying goes, you have to spend money to make money. So don’t be afraid to incentivize your front desk staff to collect unpaid patient bills. Many dentists offer their front desk team monthly or annual bonuses for reaching A/R goals and hitting specific recovery levels. Others reward their staff with fun company outings, vacation days, parties etc. when their collection targets are reached. But don’t simply reward quantity collections. Incentivize quality collections as well. Offer bonuses for providing a positive patient experience during the bill pay process and reward those team members that receive thank you notes or positive feedback from patients for helping them with their bill. You’ll be surprised at how a little extra motivation can go a long way in turning those unpaid accounts into revenue.
YOUR TURN: How involved is your front desk staff in patient billing and collections? Do they play an active role in making sure your patients don’t fall behind on their bills? We want to hear from you!
No Legal Advice Intended: This communication is for informational purposes only and is not intended, and should not be taken, as legal advice on any particular set of facts or circumstances. This communication does not create an attorney-client relationship between you and I.C. System, Inc. You should contact an attorney for advice on specific legal issues.