8 Methods to Avoid Dealing with Debt


It’s a sad truth that dentists are stuck with past-due bills more often than other medical professions. Eliminating the opportunity for a patient to skip payment should be a top priority of every dentist.

Additionally, dental offices have limited financing options, and this makes cash flow all the more important to their operations. Any hours spent collecting bills will erode and possibly even eliminate their profit margin.

You need a strategy for preventing nonpayment. It should start with explaining payment policies to patients on the phone when they call for an appointment, and it should include reiterating those same policies at the front desk of your practice.Debt

The more detailed you are about your policy and charges, the less likely a patient will be to walk away saying “I didn’t realize I would have to pay so much.” Similarly, the more patient data you capture up front, the more likely you be to collect on delinquent bills.

Try these eight methods in order to reduce the time you spend working with delinquent accounts.

  • Gather demographic data. Make it a standard practice to collect the patient’s date of birth, current address, Social Security number, phone numbers (landline, mobile, work), driver’s license number, email, and an emergency contact.
  • Photocopy a driver’s license or some other photo identification. This helps prevent any debate about whether the person in the photo owes you money.
  • Have patients sign a consent form. The form authorizes your office to contact them via phone, letter, fax, cell phone and text regarding any delinquent payments.
  • Have your front desk provide a treatment plan. This document, which many software programs can generate, details how much each procedure will cost and the portion that insurance is likely to pay.
  • Collect as much as you can prior to or right after treatment. Ask the patient to cover the co-pay amount immediately. Use treatment plans to show patients how much they will have to pay out of pocket.
  • Share information about insurers with patients. Your staff knows how much various insurers are likely to cover for certain procedures. Have your staff provide patients with an estimate of the total cost for services and be clear about their responsibility.
  • Shorten notification time periods. After an initial bill, send a notification within 30 days. If you receive no response, reassess the situation. Leave voice mails and send text messages if possible. Send email reminders to patients detailing what they owe, and provide a link to your website if you accept online payments.
  • Offer a discount. Many patients do not have dental insurance. One easy way to receive payment the day of treatment is to offer a 5 percent discount. It’s not a huge amount of money taken out of your pocket, and since it gives patients a sense of satisfaction it could create loyalty. Everyone likes a deal.

Put these strategies together and you should reduce your outstanding receivables while developing loyal patients. Patients will appreciate that your staff takes the time to explain payment policies, offer estimates, predict insurance coverage options, and provide a discount to those who have to pay in full.


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