It happens daily in dental practices everywhere. A patient is diagnosed and treated before fees and payment arrangements can be made, leaving the front office team member to discuss the patient’s charges after treatment. This may end well for many established patients who know the practice’s financial policy and when and how they’re expected to pay, but for new patients and some established patients this can only end in underpaid or unpaid collections.
This is exactly why ALL patients need to have a signed financial policy in their records and treatment planning that clearly states all estimated charges and gives the patient payment options. Because money matters to every dental practice.
What’s Your Policy?
Every practice should have a clear financial policy that precisely explains when your practice expects to be paid, how much is collected if dental benefits are assigned to the provider, and what types of payments are accepted.
Is the practice a fee for service practice? Explain in detail that payment is due in full at the time of service and all dental benefits will be assigned to the patient.
Does the practice offer third-party financing? If so, list who it is offered through and offer more information if needed.
Are statements sent to patients with account balances due? Explain that all unpaid balances are due upon receipt of the statement.
Does the practice ever use collections services? Include a statement that explains that any accounts turned over to collection will be charged fees associated with that process.
A detailed financial policy that is signed by the patient helps them better understand what is expected at the time of service.
Are You Treatment Planning Every Patient?
Every proposed treatment should be charted and a treatment plan printed for the patient to review and sign.
Payment options should be discussed with care, making sure to pay close attention to the patient’s demeanor. If the patient is unsure of how to afford treatment, offer third-party options.
If time allows, offer to help the patient through the application process. Be careful to understand third-party rules regarding in-office applications, however, as recent changes have limited some same-day charge amounts.
Why Money Matters
Every dentist that I have ever spoken to is quick to tell me that his or her number one focus is taking care of the patient, and that is as it should be. However, we are also in the business of dentistry and we need to be sure that our patients understand not only the treatment that is needed but also the costs of the treatment. We are making money not just for the sake of having more, but in order to ensure that we can continue to help others as needed; and that is the true reason money matters.