The appointment is set, but rest assured, there is plenty for your patient to dread. There’s all that drilling and scraping, plus the potential unwelcome news that they will need to return for a root canal.
Of course, then there’s the matter of paying for all this discomfort. On the flip side, asking someone for money when they have a mouth full of gauze is an awkward situation for your office staff, so they may take the easier route and send the bill in the mail. However, as we covered in an earlier blog, missing this opportunity to collect can erode your revenues in the long run.
Going forward, it’s time for a re-frame. Setting upfront payment terms is sound financial hygiene.
Be prepared: Across other areas of medical care, out-of-pocket costs are climbing. Even if your prices have remained stable, it’s smart to be ready for more cost-savvy patients that will be calling around. Office staff should be prepared and willing to disclose the costs of treatment, even when insurance is involved. In such cases, patients should also be told their estimated co-pay.
Rethink your timing: As much as possible, a mailed bill to the patient should become the exception at your practice, not the rule. Some practices go as far as collecting money when the appointment is made (or confirmed), with the goal of decreasing the number of cancellations and no-shows. At the very least, collect at the start of the appointment, not at the end. This gives the patient an opportunity to make an informed choice about his or her health care. If possible, work in an incentive for paid-in-full early-bird payments, such as a small discount.
Increase the ease of payment: If you haven’t evolved past the checkbook model, it’s time for an upgrade. Thanks to easy-to-use online payment tools, patients are accustomed to having the ability to pay with their mobile phones. When the appointment is scheduled, email a link to a web-payment portal to help patients settle up ahead of time. For those who can’t pay in full for complicated treatments, make third-party financing available in order to shift the risk to the creditor instead of you.
Offer perspective: Do a little in-office marketing and push out some messaging about the benefits of a healthy smile. Even as your patients grumble about the big bite this appointment will take out of their weekly paychecks, you can help them see why it’s worth it — plus they’ll notice that you believe in what you do.
With this approach, the hope is delinquent accounts will become rarer for your practice, which would increase revenues for you. But when the time comes to resolve accounts receivables, turn to a collection partner that has the deep resources and high standards of professionalism to help you.
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