Collections Holding You Back? Make Changes to Grow Practice Profits
When practice profits are down, it can be pretty frustrating. Focusing on the financial aspects of running a practice isn’t something most dentists like to do, so they often have no idea why they’re struggling or what changes need to be made to get back on the right track.
You can start by developing a financial policy and clear collections protocols. This will make a huge difference, and is something I can help with if you need guidance. Once these are in place, you’ll have more steady cash flow and finally be able to do the things you once couldn’t afford, such as making updates to the practice and investing in expensive equipment.
Want to know how you can achieve even better results? Read on for more tips designed to help you finally meet your full potential.
Hire a Qualified Financial Coordinator
Collecting money from patients isn’t an easy job and can be stressful at times. To help ensure success, once you hire someone with the right skillset and temperament, you must also provide that person with the proper training and tools. He or she has to be comfortable making collections calls. Keep in mind these calls should never be confrontational. Instead, your Financial Coordinator should work with patients to resolve issues so your practice can collect payment.
What exactly should your Financial Coordinator be accountable for? Collecting payment, generating accounts receivable and following up on delinquent accounts. And remember, this is a job for one person. While other employees should be able to step in when this team member is away from the office, the Financial Coordinator is ultimately the one responsible. If you have more than one person performing the same tasks it will only lead to confusion and ultimately conflict.
Track Accounts Receivable
• Generate an aged accounts receivable report once a month. The report should list every account with an outstanding balance and date of last payment.
• Make sure the report “ages” the receivables showing the “current” column, which is revenues produced in the last 29 days that have not been collected. It should provide a breakdown of accounts that are 30, 60 and 90 days past due.
• Total all monies that are more than 90 days delinquent. Keep in mind the percentage should not be more than 10% of your total accounts receivable.
• Take a look at the charges in the report’s “current” column. These are uncollected monies produced in the past 29 days. Because the practice should have a minimum of 45% over-the-counter collections for the month, there should be no more than 55% in the current column awaiting insurance reimbursement.
• Run the report with credit balances. Be sure to add credit balances back to the total accounts receivable.
Now you can compare the totals you get to your monthly production. If they’re more, I can pretty much guarantee it’s because you have a problem with billing and/or insurance. Here are tips to get them back in order:
Improve Billing Systems
Another tip? Include a personalized note with every bill that’s 30 days past due. Let these patients know you didn’t receive payment on the requested due date and then give them a new one. Encourage them to contact the office if they’re having financial difficulties.
Communicate your Financial Policy
If patients aren’t paying on time, it hurts your practice. Following these tips will improve collections and cash flow so you can take your practice from struggling to thriving.
For additional information on this topic and more, visit my blog: The Lighter Side
Interested in speaking to me about your practice concerns? Email email@example.com
Taking Care of Your Patients
Many new dentists don’t want to hire an inexperienced hygienist. But even more important than experience, it’s crucial to find hygienists who are motivated to utilize their knowledge and willing to continuously provide and present the treatment that is best for the individual patient in their chair, within the standard of care, while recommending the most optimal of care. Patients have the right to know all of their options, and what may or may not happen if they do not accept treatment.
Many hygienists, both new and experienced, do nothing more than a prophylaxis-based practice because they don’t know how to convert patients, or may not want to put in the effort necessary to educate patients about periodontal disease. As dental hygienists, it is our responsibility to inform patients about the health of their mouth and explain the best treatment options available to help maintain or slow down the disease process.
In order to do this and be able to maximize the patient’s insurance, it is important for hygienists to know and understand the American Dental Association dental codes for the periodontal treatment they provide most often. One of the most under-utilized codes is the scaling and root planing of 1-3 teeth.
Many hygienists would rather work harder and under more stress using the full mouth debridement code, while providing a lesser service to the patient (and possibly less comfort to the patient too), simply because that’s what they are accustomed to doing. In my 30 years as a full-time practicing hygienist, I have seen maybe three patients that were truly a full mouth debridement, or as many offices call it a “gross scale”.
Most insurance companies do not even cover a full mouth debridement and some only cover it once in a lifetime, yet the code is still not being used correctly. The quality of care is often much better for patients if they are treatment planned as limited quadrants, and the comfort level will more than likely be better as well – and most insurances will cover more of it!
A good rule of thumb is, if the pocketing is there and you think a full mouth debridement is needed, then chances are the patient should be coded as scaling and root planing 1- 3 teeth. Yes, this will require a lot more patient education, but that is part of being a dental hygienist and one of our responsibilities. Yes, this will require an up-to-date full mouth series of x-rays and current full mouth probing, in addition to having the recession charted, as most insurance companies look at clinical attachment loss, not just pocketing. As clinicians, we should be looking at the clinical attachment loss too, and not just pocketing.
It is recommended the hygienist go through the patient charts the night before, or the last day they are in the office before their next work day. All probings, full mouth series and bwx-rays should be current. If the patient has treatment pending with doctor, this should also be addressed during the hygiene appointment. Make sure the clinical notes state why they are not doing treatment, or when they plan to move forward. If anything needs to be updated it should be done during the patient’s hygiene appointment, regardless of what is on the schedule for that day.
Even if a patient has refused treatment or x-rays in the past, it is still your responsibility to provide education on why they need them. If the patient is the one dictating treatment and is not being informed of what is recommended, why do they need us as clinicians? As hygienists we are the detectives for the doctor and should be providing the doctor with the most accurate and complete information we can. This enables patients to truly get the quality of care they are paying for and expect from their dental health care team.
Interested in improving your hygiene department? Email firstname.lastname@example.org and ask us about our 1-Day Hygiene Training Program or call 877-777-6151
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