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Ten tips for prompt patient payment

Slow—or no—patient payment can be just as detrimental to cash flow as claim denials and insurance payment delays. And the longer a patient account goes unpaid, the more difficult it becomes to collect.

Whether you mail hard-copy invoices or email electronic statements, the first step toward timely payment is having a policy that spells out your patient’s financial obligation. Experienced dental office managers Teresa Duncan, Odyssey Management, Lynne Leggett, MDE, and Katie Smith, Glacier Dental, also agree that the most effective way to get clients to pay is to make it easy for them to understand their statements and obligations.

Here are their top ten tips for collecting from patients. 

  1. Develop a consistent financial policy and make sure everyone in the office is aware of it and communicates it consistently.
  2. Distribute your financial policy form with your health history form to all new patients.
  3. Use real-time coverage verification to establish the patient’s co-pay before the first appointment—then make sure you receive that payment.  
  4. Never seat a new patient in the chair or start any procedure until insurance coverage has been verified.
  5. Take advantage of financing options through third-party companies.
  6. If your office uses paper statements, differentiate between first, second and subsequent notices. Consider printing “Past Due” and/or using colored paper to make overdue statements stand out.
  7. Self-address return envelopes in order to encourage response.
  8. If payment isn’t received after 30 or 60 days (depending on your practice’s policy) consider a personal letter signed by the dentist or a friendly phone call to the patient.
  9. Use practice management codes for "Deductible applied,"  "Maximum reached," "Insurance is requesting information from subscriber" and other messages to make statements easier to understand.
  10. Allow space on your statement for credit card information, and accept more than one card.

Collecting from patients in a timely and cost-effective manner is never easy, but it doesn’t have to be like pulling teeth. Put these practices to work in your dental practice and watch your cash flow accelerate.

About Smith, Duncan and Leggett:
Katie Smith, FAADOM, is the current Office Manager and Treatment Coordinator with Glacier Dental. Lynne Leggett is former office manager of a successful dental practice and is now an EDI Specialist for MDE. Teresa Duncan, MS, is a consultant, speaker and writer in addition to her responsibilities as office manager. Both Duncan and Leggett are providing office managers with the information they need to increase practice profitability.

What's New at MDE

If you read last month’s themed issue of The Modern Office, we discussed the importance of dental office managers to their practice and its financial health. Recently, Dental Products Report also issued a special report featuring the American Association for Dental Office Managers (AADOM), with an inside look at the people, the mission and why dentists should take notice. As proud sponsor of AADOM, MDE is recognized for our significant support and appreciation of office managers.

Information Center

  1. Find out what’s new at Delta Dental of Colorado (DDCO) and learn how modern technology can help boost office efficiency and accuracy by attending a DDCO sponsored seminar on July 22, 2011, from 9:00 a.m. to noon in Grand Junction, Colorado. To register, email profservices677@ddpco.com.
  2. Delta Dental of Virginia’s summer Continuing Education (CE) Seminar is just one month away. This year, the seminar is on August 19, in Virginia Beach at the Hilton Virginia Beach Oceanfront. Charles Blair, DDS, will discuss how to improve your practice with his presentation, “Focus on Profitability for the Efficient Practice”. As an introduction to the seminar, join us for an MDE-sponsored reception from 6-8 p.m. on Thursday, August 18, where Dr. Blair will be on hand to answer any questions you may have. Download a registration form here.
  3. The American Association of Dental Office Managers (AADOM) is preparing for its 7th Annual Dental Office Managers Conference, September 8-10 in Nashville, Tennessee. The conference is designed to teach real strategies and techniques for improving your practice, offering a wide range of topics from generation talk and tips on insurance management to front office first impressions and marketing your practice. Are you a member? This is also an excellent forum for networking with fellow OMs! Register today to be a part of the learning experience, and see the right column for an exclusive discount code.
Q&A graphic

Answers to your billing and insurance questions

Question: The dental office where I work has difficulty getting reimbursed for occlusal analysis—code D9950. What tips and tricks can you share to help reimbursement increase for occlusal analysis claims?

Answer: To learn more on reimbursement for occlusal analysis claims from providers and payers, visit our Facebook Q&A page here.

Message us with all of your billing and insurance questions. We'll be pulling together industry experts and resources to help you uncover the daily challenges you face and how to streamline your claims and payment processes, and more.

MDE in the News

Turning your practice into one with simplified and efficient management processes is a challenge for many dental practices. However, Shenandoah Valley Implant Institute has risen to the task. Walk through their journey to improving back-end processes in the September issue of Implant Practice. In addition to its normal circulation, Implant Practice will be circulated at ADA. Be sure to keep an eye out for this issue!

Joint the conversation

Thought Leader: Staying on top of patient statements and payments can be a daunting task. If you have suggestions please reach out to us on Facebook and Twitter, and tell us what techniques have worked for you!

Have something to say? Start a conversation on Twitter with the hash tag #dentalconversations. We’ll join you as well as continue to talk here.

Online Poll

Please answer the following poll question and we will provide the results in next month’s newsletter.

How are patient statements typically handled within your practice?

a) We send statements to the patient with color coded reminders.
b) In addition to sending statements, we follow-up with a phone call.
c) We offer third-party financing options, mapped out prior to service.
d) Other
Take the online poll

Last issue’s poll results: As an office manager, how do you communicate financial and/or operational concerns with coworkers?

I don’t, as it’s not my place: 9%
Casually drop hints, going into more detail if someone asks: 0%
Draft a formal proposal to present to the office: 45%
Other: 45%