Postponing Patient Communication Sabotages Patient Relations
Front Office Training Case #FO412
“Francie Smith” (names have been changed) signed up to take the Front Office Business Course at the request of her employer, “Dr. Blie”. Dr. Blie was at the end of her rope. Francie was not explaining payment arrangements to patients or showing how their dental insurance plans worked. She overstated what the insurance would pay when she didn’t actually know for certain if they would or not. When she checked out a patient who needed to return for a filling, she wouldn’t provide an estimate because “it was such a small treatment plan.” By not communicating with patients about dental plan coverage or giving them written estimates, she was giving the false perception that the patient was not expected to pay anything at the time of service.
Speaking with patients is a necessity in all dental practices. Dentistry is an extroverted business requiring better than average communication skills. It is not just about explaining diagnosed treatment in layman’s terms; it’s about making a connection with words that convey confidence, knowledge and caring. Developing these skills depends on the desire to improve patient interaction plus perfecting communication with practice and roleplay to hone and polish verbal presentations.
Francie explained that it paralyzed her to give estimates because she did not like giving people unwelcome news, and the insurance never covered as much as the patient hoped it would. To avoid this confrontation, she simply dismissed the patient by saying, “We will bill your insurance and if there is a balance we will send you a statement.” The Accounts Receivable had risen to over 300 statements sent monthly, mostly to patients with insurance that had paid, but some with insurance that had denied payment based on eligibility, frequency limitations, non-covered services or maximum reached for the calendar year. Francie never called these people, she just kept sending statements.
After completing the Front Office Training, Francie realized it was extremely important to communicate total charges, estimated insurance benefit and out-of-pocket costs to patients at the time the treatment plans were presented and appointments were scheduled. To help Francie with developing her communication skills, we developed a letter to the patient that can be edited for each situation.
Dear Patient, (name)
Thank you for being a great patient in our practice; we want you to know you are appreciated and your opinion matters to us. Because providing quality and comprehensive care is important, our goal is to establish effective communication and encourage you to ask questions and seek information regarding your dental care and payment policies. In our experience the dental benefits (insurance) offered by your employer are designed to help you get some preventive care and some basic restorative care. Major care or treatment of diseases and surgeries will require more out-of-pocket costs. This is typical of most plans because the maximum paid out for covered services in a year averages $1,000 per person.
Whether our office is in or out of the preferred provider organization (PPO) network, there will be co-payments or coinsurance and deductibles that you may be required to pay.
We strive to get coverage information prior to your arrival so we may be able to communicate the coverage to you. We present to you a treatment plan and an “estimate” of your financial portion based on the information obtained by calling your insurance plan. If there is a difference at the end of treatment between the estimate and the actual payment from insurance, we will explain this to you. If you have any questions please do not hesitate to call us, as we are here to help you.
This letter was included in the welcome packet information to new patients and was modified and sent to patients with balances along with a copy of their EOB.
Improving communication helps foster and develop great patient relationships. To learn more about this process, call McKenzie Management today and sign up for a customized Front Office Training session with one of our instructors.Forward this article to a friend
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