05.01.09 Issue #373 Forward This Newsletter To A Colleague

Belle DuCharme CDPMA
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Front Office Finesse For Troubled Times

With the rolling recession and layoffs affecting many people, now is the time to rethink the ways that “we have always done it” and look internally for ways to improve our practices to weather the storm.  Many businesses have eliminated positions and eliminated the need for the position by becoming more streamlined and requiring remaining staff to learn new skills.  It is vitally important that you seek to improve existing skills, not only in technology, but most importantly patient communication. To become “indispensable” to the team, step out of the comfort zone and become an exceptional front office employee.  Enrollment is up at many colleges and schools with people who have been laid off and want to change or enhance their careers and those that are taking this opportunity to get a “leg-up” to prevent a layoff. 

Recently, I had the pleasure of meeting with a group of long-term dedicated front office ladies from an assortment of different practices, both general and specialist, who expressed frustration with the economy and with trying to help patients get financing.  If patients did not have good credit for outside funding, what could they do to creatively find ways to finance these patients without taking risks?  The conversation started with emotional recounts and ended with empowerment.  Finding new ideas, new tools and support for the work that you do builds confidence and job skills. 

Our meeting revealed that there were many systems in their individual practices that were affecting patient acceptance of treatment and contributing to higher than normal accounts receivables.  During the meeting, we decided to make a list of the most critical issues that were affecting the practices and then make a determined effort to solve these problems during training.  The following represents a list of what the group felt was the most pressing issues from their practices.

  • Patients not qualifying for financing but were long-term patients with past history of compliance.  Can we finance these patients and how?
  • Patients that have been in the practice a number of years but now are not paying their statements in a timely manner.  How do we speak to them without offending?
  • No definitive financial policy is in place.  So how do we enforce collection?
  • Untrained staff members who say “we will bill you” and let the patient leave.  These are senior staff members with positions of authority in the practice and this is what they have always done.
  • A pile of unresolved insurance claims with missing documentation that is holding up payment.  Business staff don’t want to interrupt clinical staff to get information.
  • Higher than normal accounts receivables and no time to make calls or no desire to call people during this recession.  Are there right and wrong ways of speaking to patients during a recession?
  • It feels like the practice is getting smaller because of the holes in the schedule.  How do we know if the practice is shrinking and what do we do to stop the decline?

As you can see, there are a lot of issues to analyze and work through and that is why practice specific training is so valuable.  To address the concern of patients not qualifying for outside funding, it is important to remember that if a patient finance company does not find the patient credit worthy, the practice, being a small business, can not make unqualified loans and accept the risk of non payment either.  Ask if the patient finance company would consider the loan if a co-signer was included or if they will approve a smaller amount.

 If the patient is known to you and has shown compliance with appointments, followed recommended treatment and has paid in the past, you could offer one of the following:

  1. Phase the treatment into appointments and then divide the total of that phase by the number of appointments and have the patient pay at each appointment.
  2. Have the patient pay 1/3, 1/3 and 1/3.  At the time treatment is presented, ask for a third of the total.  Get the next third at the appointment for impressions or prep and the last third at delivery, post op or bite check, etc.  Tell the patient that the 1/3 is due before seating so that they will be prepared to pay.
  3. Offer to accept payments and hold in escrow prior to treatment so that treatment is paid prior to performance of service.  This would work when there will be placement of an implant that requires a healing period prior to final restoration.
  4. Give the patient a return offer at the end of the treatment for $50.00 off any service in the future.

The current economic situation is having an effect on many practices. Some of your systems are not working like they used to.  Without professional training or help, it can render a practice “helpless” and vulnerable to these outside effects.

If you would like to learn more about McKenzie Management’s 2-day Front Office Training Program, email:  training@mckenziemgmt.com.

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