Whether your dental practice is new or established, you are likely to encounter patients experiencing the inability to pay their bills on time, or at all. Nobody can dispute the importance of collecting piled high patient debt, and nor should the value of maintaining healthy and positive relationships with your patients be argued.
Take a moment to reflect, what patient is going to let you perform that root canal if they are intimidated or put off by your collection practices, whether in house or farmed out? We’ve seen it, they will find another dentist, and fast.
According to Cathy Warschaw’s article “Debt Collection in the Dental World”, “Late payments affect your business’ cash flow, which affects your ability to pay your debts on time. Simultaneously, if you go about attempting debt collection in too aggressive of a manner, you will alienate your patients.” Therefore, she provides the following paraphrased advice:
• Be preventative: Have your dental staff collect and verify the patient’s insurance information at the time they make their appointment, as well as tell the patient the amount of co-pay or deductible that is due. If this is done before the service is provided it will eliminate the need for any debt collection.
• Before the dental service is performed, give the patient their estimated balance.
• If there is an incorrect estimate by the insurance provider even after the co-pay is collected at the time of service, this may be a surprise to the patient. Therefore, to prevent debt and shock on the part of your patient, your staff should inform the patient of this discrepancy at the time of their dental appointment.
• It is important to have patients sign a waiver that informs them of their financial commitment to the dental office, just in case their insurance denies or does not pay the full claim.
• If a patient balance remains after the appointment, you should send monthly bills until the debt is fully paid off. If you desire to make follow-up phone calls, you should consider a diplomatic, FDCPA compliant collection agency that will make phone calls and send collection letters to your patients on behalf of your office.
• Double check that you have the correct demographic information for all of your patients so that you are sure that they will receive their bills.