The Benefits of Outsourcing Your Billing Department
Finding the best and brightest team members can be difficult – especially when you’re looking to hire someone to take on specialized tasks such as dental insurance billing. Most dentists dread the hiring process, and all-too-often end up bringing on the first person they see with an impressive resume. When these hires don’t work out (which is usually the case), it leads to major problems, costing you money and potentially damaging the practice.
While following a proper hiring process will help you avoid this situation, so will outsourcing certain jobs in your practice, such as insurance and patient billing. Outsourcing through companies like eAssist offers a variety of benefits. Here are a few:
Outsourcing saves you money. If you opt to outsource your billing department, you don’t have to worry about hiring a team member to handle insurance claims or patient billing. That means you don’t have to pay employment taxes or benefits. Instead, you pay a low monthly fee.
Outsourcing saves you time. Not only can it take a lot of time and effort to find the right person to lead your billing department, you also have to spend time properly training that person. Processing insurance claims can get pretty complicated, so you have to make sure the person you bring on board has the proper skillset and training, as well as the right temperament to handle patient collections calls. You also must spend time conducting performance reviews and handling any problems that come up with this employee – which could include letting him or her go if it just doesn’t work out.
When you outsource, you’re paired with a specialist who knows the ins and outs of insurance claims processing, appealing, posting and adjustments, and who understands the best approach to patient collections. You don’t have to worry if claims are getting processed, if your appeals are being sent in a timely manner or if patient billing is being handled properly. You have a specialist who is dedicated to your account and is focused on making sure you get paid for all production as soon as possible. It really becomes a much smoother process.
Outsourcing offers consistency. In a dental practice, you often have to deal with turnover – which can leave you scrambling to fill the voids while you work through the hiring process. This can be a stressful time for you and your team members, and if the person accountable for your billing department is the one who needs to be replaced, it might mean insurance claim appeals and patient billing falls through the cracks. This, of course, costs the practice money. These problems also come up when employees need extended time off for jury duty, maternity leave, or vacations.
Outsourcing offers the consistency you need to run an efficient, profitable dental practice. No matter what else is happening in the office, you know insurance and patient billing are being handled properly, and that you’re getting paid for services rendered.
Outsourcing enables team members to focus on your patients. Submitting and appealing insurance claims and calling patients who are past due on their bills takes up a lot of time – time your team members could be spending with patients. Outsourcing these tasks frees them up to educate patients about the importance of maintaining oral health and how the services you offer can help them meet their goals. Interactions become more meaningful, which helps lead to patient loyalty and increased case acceptance.
Outsourcing helps alleviate your stress. When you’re not getting paid on time, it leads to a cash flow issue in the practice. This can be a pretty stressful situation for both you and your team members, and will take your focus away from providing patients with the best care possible. If you know these tasks are being handled by trained, experienced professionals, you won’t have to worry about if you’re getting paid or not. You know someone is taking care of that for you, so you and your team members can focus attention elsewhere.
Most dentists don’t want to deal with the headaches that come with insurance and patient billing, but likely don’t know they have another option. Outsourcing to a company like eAssist is a great way to make sure all your billing gets done properly, saving you valuable time and money.
For additional information on this topic and more, visit my blog: The Lighter Side
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Get More New Patients and Grow Practice Production
Case Study #313
The doctor’s concerns: “The number of new patients coming to my office each month has dropped from 25 to 13, and my practice production and revenues have really taken a hit. I’m ready to invest in a continuous marketing campaign to attract new patients to my practice, but I want to make sure my team members are prepared to convert new patient phone calls into appointments. I also want to get new patients on the schedule as quickly as possible.”
The practice facts:
Looking at these practice facts, we can see there are adjustments the doctor could make right away to make it easier for new patients to get on the schedule. Here’s what we suggested:
Expand opening hours. While many practices prefer to work 8am-5pm, four or five days a week, those hours aren’t always convenient for patients. We talked to the doctor about opening early a few days a week, offering evening hours once a week and seeing patients one Saturday a month. Offering flexible hours makes it easier for patients to fit dental appointments into their busy lives, and that makes them more likely to schedule with your practice.
Move the lunch hour. This doctor and his team members were out of the office from noon to 1pm, which is prime time for patients to call and make appointments or even come in for their appointments. We suggested moving lunch back an hour, giving the doctor more time for morning production. It’s also a good idea to stagger team member lunch breaks so there’s always someone in the office to answer patient phone calls.
Add hygiene days. After looking at the numbers, it was clear the doctor needed two more hygiene days a week. When new patients called, they were told they couldn’t see the doctor for weeks. So while many of those patients went ahead and made an appointment, most opted to go to a practice that could get them in sooner – making the doctor’s no-show rate for new patients about 45%. Adding hygiene days helped alleviate this problem.
Stop relying on pre-scheduling alone. Not only was our doctor short-staffed in hygiene, all of his patients were pre-scheduled six months in advance. That meant there were no openings in the schedule for new patients. To correct this, we suggested implementing a hybrid system. With this system, the practice now only schedules reliable patients six months out. All other patients are contacted a month or so before their appointment to schedule. Not only did this leave more openings for new patients (as well as past-due patients), it reduced the number of cancellations and no-shows the practice deals with each day.
New patient phone calls. The doctor also needed to improve how his team members handled new patient phone calls. To do that, we suggested creating a written script so team members know exactly what to say when a new patient calls to schedule an appointment. This helped them to be more comfortable during the conversation and lead to more successful calls. It’s also important to make sure team members are aware of all marketing promotions and can answer questions about the practice.
Here’s a breakdown of how the new patient phone call should go. Answer the phone with a smile and a friendly greeting, such as: “Thank you for calling Dr. Smith’s office. This is Susan. How may I help you?” Find out the patient’s name and use it during the conversation.
Next, ask patients how they heard about the practice. This will tell you if your marketing efforts are working or if current patients are referring you. If the patient is calling after a referral, say something like: “Jim is one of our favorite patients. We’ll be sure to thank him for the referral.”
From there, ask patients how you can help. This gives them the chance to express any concerns or problems they’re having. Train team members to really listen and determine how the practice can best meet each patient’s needs.
Finally, tell patients what they can expect during the first visit. This is where the written script comes in handy. The script should convey how special the office is and detail (in language patients can easily understand) what will happen at their first appointment. Be sure to let patients know how long the appointment will take so they can plan accordingly, and then get them on the schedule.
Before hanging up, ask patients if they have any other questions. Direct them to the practice website to learn more about the office and team, download forms before the visit or get directions. Thank them for calling and let them know you look forward to meeting them.
Once our doctor implemented changes to practice hours and scheduling, and trained team members to properly answer new patient calls, he began to see a significant increase in new patient appointments – boosting practice productivity and his bottom line.
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