Information for Dental Professionals Part 1
February 14th, 2013 |
As a dental professional, you must provide the highest quality care to patients while still protecting your practice and managing costs. There are many factors that can greatly impact your financial success. The first part of our three part series covers advice on billing and accounts receivable practices to follow for a thriving business.
BILLING & ACCOUNTS RECEIVABLE
With excellence of patient care the top priority in today’s dentistry practices, industry analysts point out that billing and accounts receivable practices just don’t get enough attention. Because the health care disciplines pump billions of dollars into the economy, the situation is especially ironic.
Billing and accounts receivable functions work hand in hand. To keep the receivable column lean, billing systems must be consistent and on the mark. The literature on this subject abounds, and the following strategies represent some of the best the experts have to offer.
TAME THE RECEIVABLE COLUMN
- Find out why patients are behind on payments. In some cases, they may have been unable to cover expensive procedures, such as root canals, bridgework or oral surgery.
- Be scrupulous in posting receipts. Record all transactions immediately, even if this means daily attention to the task. Check with responsible personnel frequently to ensure all receivables are posted, including those that fall outside of patient revenues. If staffing is too tight to do this consistently, consider hiring a bookkeeper or accountant.
- Conduct regular in-depth reviews with accounting personnel. For example, it’s smart to compare the practice’s collection percentage and average collection period to established benchmarks, as well as to review ending A/R reports. This practice allows identification of positive and negative trends.
- Purchase or update accounting software. The right programs will effectively track billing and receivables, which makes a huge difference in the bottom line. Many easy-to-use products on today’s market enable almost any employee to keep accurate records. When implementing a new system, participate in any training or support program the manufacturer offers.
COLLECT WHAT’S OWED
- Communicate billing procedures and expectations. Instruct personnel at the front desk to explain payment terms to the patients before they leave the office.
- Require immediate payment. This practice has become almost universal, for good reason. When insurance reimbursement, co-pays and deductibles are in the picture, delayed collection can spawn errors throughout the billing system.
- Establish a consistent billing protocol. Statements should be complete, with all services dated and itemized. Use a simple format with clear due dates and payment terms. Include contact information should the patient require assistance. Most importantly, send statements out as soon as possible, when the insurance has been paid and the balance is due.
- When an account is delinquent, work with the patient to find a solution. Because providing patient care is the mission of any practice, many dental professionals prefer to arrange some sort of payment plan.
One strategy consists of asking patients to sign an agreement with a monthly payment of 10 or 15 percent of the original amount owed, for example. All written and verbal communication concerning this sort of situation should be clear, friendly and non-threatening.
- Fully document, track and back up telephone calls, correspondence and e-mails attempting to arrange payment on delinquent accounts. This includes a patient’s promise or refusal to pay.
- When nothing else works, get tough. Sometimes, delinquent patients ignore telephone calls, polite letters and all attempts to resolve the problem for weeks, months and longer. The practice may have no other alternative than to turn matters over to a collection agency.
The procedure for this distasteful chore typically involves flagging offenders as “cash only” patients for subsequent visits, thus allowing them to continue care without further risk to the practice.
If delinquency continues, the practice may give a notice period (10 days, for example) before discontinuing services. When the outstanding sum is significant, small claims court can be an option.
For patients truly in need, however, practitioners may try extending payment terms, especially when the individual is trying to meet obligations.
In the next part of our series, we will examine vendor relations and purchasing equipment for your business. Contact us at 866-867-1570 to discuss the many ways Sandy Spring Bank can help your practice.