Show Me The Money!
A call came in recently from a Schedule Coordinator in one of our client’s practices. Susie shared with me her concern regarding the difficulty that she was experiencing in collecting patient payments prior to their departure. Let’s look at some statistics for this practice to help you see the obvious problems that they are having:
If you have read enough of the McKenzie Management e-newsletters regarding healthy financial statistics, you know that the AR (Accounts Receivable NOT including credit balances) should be no more than one month’s NET production. You also know that the net collections to net production percentage should be 100% after you factor in the 2% bad debt write-offs.
These statistics were tracked monthly on the practice’s “scoreboard” and the doctor brought these continuing poor performance percentages to Susie’s attention. Susie called for help.
Inform Before You Perform!
Mrs. Jones is escorted to the Schedule Coordinator, Susie, by the Hygienist. The Hygienist gives Susie the routing slip and verbally informs her that Mrs. Jones needs to return for two tooth-colored fillings on the upper left side. NOTE: The decision to schedule the tooth-colored versus a silver filling was decided chairside and not left to the Schedule Coordinator.
Susie now posts today’s charges for Mrs. Jones and generates her insurance claim. She asks Mrs. Jones IF she would like to schedule her next appointment. Fortunately, she says “yes” and an appointment time is established. Susie bids her good-bye.
What was wrong with this scenario?
Susie asked Mrs. Jones a “yes or no” question when she asked if she would like to make an appointment. Always assume that the answer is “yes” and move forward. A better question for Susie to ask Mrs. Jones would be: “Mrs. Jones, I have an appointment available with Dr. Brown next Wednesday at 10:00.” Susie just had a “change in her schedule” for Wednesday and she wants to fill it. If she doesn’t offer it to Mrs. Jones, how would Mrs. Jones know to ask for it? Avoid allowing the patient to control the appointment schedule.
No financial arrangements were made for Mrs. Jones’ next appointment. Because of this breakdown, it makes it more difficult to ask her for payment on the day that she is treated.
Recommendation: “Mrs. Jones, you are fortunate enough to have dental benefits that will assist you with your next visit for the fillings. At this time, I am ‘guestimating’ that your portion will be $175. After I hear from the insurance company, if there is any difference, I will let you know. I will write this amount on the back of your appointment card for your convenience.”
Having this discussion with Mrs. Jones now, instead of surprising her on the day of her visit, eliminates the “deer in the headlights” expression that we are so familiar with! This is a very subtle way of saying to the patient that you expect her to pay at her next visit.
By revealing Mrs. Jones’ expected portion, it also allows Mrs. Jones the opportunity to ask any questions she may have about the amount. She may question the amount. The response by Susie may be, “Mrs. Jones, since it is the first of the year, I have factored in your deductible for you.”
On Check-Out Day
One of the many “Golden Rules of Dentistry” is this: Whoever speaks next loses! This is a perfect example. After the fee is presented, don’t say a word until the patient does. Otherwise, you will make additional offers… like mailing the payment.
Remember - inform before you perform!
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