3 Ways to Improve Collections and Grow Practice Profits
If practice profits are down, it’s likely time to make some changes – starting with developing a financial policy and clear collections protocols. Once you have these in place, you’ll start noticing changes. You’ll have more steady cash flow and finally be able to save for retirement, or invest in that equipment you’ve been eyeing. This is great, but there are ways to achieve even better results. Here are a few more tips:
1. Don’t Hire Just Anyone to Handle Collections
Your Financial Coordinator must understand it’s his or her job to collect payment from patients, and this task can be difficult at times. To help ensure success, provide the proper training, tools and scripts. Take the time to train your Financial Coordinator on how to make effective collections calls. These calls should never be confrontational. The team member should work with patients to resolve any issues and ultimately collect payment.
Hold your Financial Coordinator accountable for collecting money, generating accounts receivable and following up on delinquent accounts. Only task one team member with this job – if more than one person is responsible it could lead to confusion and even conflict.
2. Monitor Accounts Receivable
OK, take a deep breath and follow these steps:
• Generate an aged accounts receivable report every month. The report should list every account with an outstanding balance and date of last payment.
• The accounts receivable report also should “age” the receivables showing the “current” column, which is revenues produced in the last 29 days that have not been collected. It should also provide a breakdown of accounts that are 30, 60 and 90 days past due.
Every time you send a bill that’s 30 days past due, include a personalized delinquent message. Here’s an example:
“Mrs. Simmons, we did not receive your payment on March 16 as requested. If you are having financial difficulty, please contact our office. Otherwise, please take care of this account balance by May 11.”
3. Tell patients about your financial policy. Once you have a policy in place, make sure both new and existing patients are aware of it. Keep it updated and don’t get in the habit of making exceptions. It’s also important for your team members to understand the policy and know when and how payment is expected from patients.
When patients don’t pay on time, it hurts your practice and makes it difficult for you to give raises, pay for CE, invest in practice upgrades and save for retirement. Establishing a clear policy, hiring the right person to handle collections and making sure patients know when payment is expected are all ways to improve collections and grow practice profits.
For additional information on this topic and more, visit my blog: The Lighter Side
Interested in speaking to me about your practice concerns? Email firstname.lastname@example.org
An Easy Way to Make Your Practice Stand Out
Competition is stiff out there. With more corporate dental offices opening every day and an influx of dentists to more desirable locations, making sure your practice sustains patient numbers and grows each month is a formidable task.
Keeping up with new technology is important, as is utilizing online media, ads and postcards to promote the practice. Continuing education for the team, webinars, dental articles and courses can help keep the team sharp. Regular staff meetings and morning huddles can keep the focus on what is important to patients and the office. While all of these items are significant, we often neglect one of the easiest ways to make our office really stand out. Follow-Through.
The reason the concept of follow-through is so important is because it has become so rare! Here’s an example: A friend tells me about her experience with a local dentist and imaging facility. She had an appointment with the doctor to examine a painful implant area. By phone, the staff at the doctor’s office set up an appointment to examine the implant, and told her that prior to being seen she would need to obtain a radiograph at a different facility. The doctor’s staff person said she would fax an order for the x-ray that day, and my friend could stop by the imaging center anytime.
After a wait of two days my friend went to the center, and the order was not there. When she asked the staff at the imaging center if they could call the doctor’s office to get the order, the staff told her that was not their policy. They could not “solicit” orders from dentists. No amount of explanation would change their minds. When my friend used her own cell phone to call the doctor, all lines were busy. She left a message, but after half an hour with still no return call, my friend went home.
The next day she called the dentist and spoke with the same staff person. They told her they had faxed the order (no mention of why an email could not be used) and said they would refax the order. To make a long and predictable story short, after two more failed attempts, the imaging facility never did get the order. My friend went to the doctor’s office and physically took the order to the center and got the radiograph. Luckily the center agreed to give my friend the x-ray to take with her when she left.
This is the sort of story that drives patients crazy, and it happens much too frequently. My friend told me she would like to simply go to a different dentist, one that treated her time respectfully. But she said, “Even if I went somewhere else it would be the same. No one cares or has any follow-through. I would leave in a minute if I could find an office that took their patients’ needs seriously!”
If this is the attitude of our patients - that all offices are the same so it doesn’t matter where they go - then why should they come to you? Make follow-through a priority in your practice and watch your word-of-mouth referrals grow. Be sure you do these things:
• Make sure any out-of-facility orders, such as the one previously discussed, are set up and ready to go when the patient has been told they will be accomplished. If there is a problem, a staff person should make sure the problem is corrected the same day and the patient receives a confirmation call and apology.
• If patients are scheduled for the delivery of ortho appliances, crowns/bridges, or removables, make sure these are in the office the day before the patient’s appointment. Having a patient arrive expecting a crown cementation for a crown that is not there is not acceptable.
• If a patient has been sent to a specialist, have a staff person follow up on the outcome of that appointment. Don’t wait until the patient’s next recall to ask what happened! The office should know what happened and be prepared to discuss the outcome with the patient.
• If a patient had a sample sent to the lab for biopsy, have a staff person follow up on the result of the biopsy and be sure that a written report has been received prior to the patient’s next appointment.
• If the dentist or hygienist is running behind, have a front desk person call the next patient to let them know and offer them a chance to reschedule if they prefer. If the patient has already arrived and is waiting more than 15 minutes, give them the same option. Patients understand that an office can run late, but they become irritated if they are ignored. Respect your patient’s time!
• If a patient has had local anesthesia or any restorative treatment, a staff person or the dentist should call them in the evening to see how they are doing. Patients will remember this kindness.
Notices on the computer schedule can often be used to remind staff to take care of these important follow-throughs. Human courtesy can accomplish the others. Since most offices are quite lax in many areas of patient service, your office will stand out and your patients will refer their family and friends.
Carol Tekavec RDH is the Director of Hygiene for McKenzie Management. Interested in knowing more about how to improve your hygiene department? Email email@example.com.
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