Show Me the Money!
Have you looked at your Accounts Receivable Report lately? Your software may call it the Aging Report. What is it? This report is a list of patients/accounts that owe you money for services that you and/or your hygienist/assistant has provided for your patients. Is some or much of the money that is owed coming from the insurance companies? It could be, depending on how “insurance-driven” your practice is. Here are some important steps for your business team in managing your AR.
1. Always generate your AR report so it does not include credit balances. All software programs have this capability. For some, it’s as easy as not checking the button to include credit balances. For others, you must indicate the lowest balance to include, which would be $.01 or higher.
Credit balances artificially deflate your true AR. If you have a patient who owes you $100 and another patient who has a credit balance and you owe them $20, your “net” AR is $80 but $100 is still owed to you. It is not uncommon for me to visit an office where the AR report was not generated correctly and the doctor is under the impression that his AR was well under his net production until the report was generated properly. The more credit balances you are carrying, the more inaccurate the AR will be.
2. Always generate the Outstanding Insurance Claims Report. Call all the claims that are outstanding 15 days and higher. Avoid generating the report to include pre-estimates, as those claims are not necessary when it comes to “show me the money.” It is difficult to collect a payment from a patient when the balance is estimated to be due from their insurance company. And if the patient’s portion was estimated and collected at the time of service, they are probably right in most cases. So “Dial for Dollars” to the outstanding claims first.
3. Start “Dialing for Dollars” for those accounts without insurance, or where the insurance has paid when the balance is only 45 days old and they have already received a statement showing the charges and the payment from their insurance company. All software statement set-ups will allow you to change the “look back” date for ledger entries opposed to the defaulted 30 days. I would suggest 60 days so the patient doesn’t receive a statement that only says “Balance Forward.” Ask your business team how many calls they receive after the statements are mailed.
4. Send electronic statements weekly (or daily if you are a large practice) to a clearinghouse who then prints the statement, places it into a window envelope, inserts a return envelope with your name on it, puts a stamp on it and mails it for you. These companies can do this for less than you can do it yourself AND save your business team valuable time.
5. Log your calls. When placing phone calls to patients with outstanding balances, it is very important to log your call, whether it be a “left message regarding account” or the agreement that was made if you actually spoke with the patient, such as “Patient will send check on the 15th.” Just as important as logging the call is following up on the patient’s promise. Here is an example of a conversation:
“Hello Mrs. Jones? This is Nancy at ABC Dental. I was reviewing your account and noticed that you have a balance of $67. I wanted to confirm your address in case you failed to receive the statement that I mailed to you on July 12.”
Mrs. Jones replies that she will mail the payment next month.
“Thank you. I will make a note that you will be mailing your check on the 15th of next month. Have a nice day.”
At this point, a follow-up note should be made on the 20th of the next month to check the patient’s account and see if the payment was received. If it was NOT, it is important to place another call to Mrs. Jones.
“Hello Mrs. Jones? This is Nancy again at ABC Dental. According to my notes, when we spoke on July 31st you were going to place a check in the mail on the 15th of this month. My records indicate that we have not received your check. Would you prefer to pay with your credit card?”
If you fail to follow up after a promise of payment, the patient will assume that you really don’t care if they pay or not. See what happens when you fail to make a credit card payment or fail to follow through with your promise!
6. Avoid scheduling a patient who has a delinquent balance. Many times the patient will schedule their 6-month professional cleaning appointment and in the meantime, have restorative treatment completed. The next thing you know, they are coming back into the office for their hygiene appointment and have not paid their balance! By reviewing the routing slips when prepared, these delinquent balances can be revealed for follow-up prior to the patient coming in.
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