7 practice essentials for office financial protocols & processes
Office Managers and Financial Coordinators can sometimes feel beat down and rejected by financial discussions — or the lack thereof — with patients day in and day out. Preserving the relationship with the patient while also setting expectations can be very tricky. What causes these discussions to go sideways? Your financial protocols and processes may not be as clear or consistent as they should be. Following these 7 Essentials for Office Financial Protocols & Processes in your practice will help you implement winning financial systems without risking your relationship with the patient.
1. Remember why the patient is seeking treatment
To start a financial discussion off on the right foot, you need to know the patient’s why.
Why did they come to the dentist today? Why is their dental health important to them? Why do they only want to do what insurance covers? When you seek to understand the patient before being understood, you are able to solidify trust with the patient and they are more receptive to the expectations of the office.
2. Be sure that your financial form is clear regarding how your office handles outstanding balances and credits
Communicating the office expectations for outstanding balances needs to be clearly defined on the office’s financial form. Will you initiate contact by mail? How long does the office allow the balance to stay on the account before a collection agency is involved? If you need a detailed financial form to use in your practice, don’t worry, we have one for you!
Transversely, many states have a time limit regarding credit balances on patient accounts. Check your state policy to understand the time frame that you can legally allow patients to keep unused credits on their account. Patient credit balances are a great reason to reach out to the patient to get them back in the chair for outstanding treatment or, if treatment is complete, a refund check is one of the best marketing tools at your disposal.
3. Understand that the office is not a bank — and there are significant regulatory requirements if you provide in house financing
Have you had a patient pay a balance with a credit card — or with third party financing — and then ask for the overpayment back as a check? Establish clear internal processes for patient payments and refunds that comply with third party regulations and ensure the dental office is not being used as a bank.
4. Be clear on your internal processes of how financial agreements are made
Using the verbiage “that is our office policy” or “this is how we do things” can come across heavier on the expectations and does not make any deposits into the patient’s emotional piggy bank. Likewise, being too lenient on patient copayments can swing the pendulum the other way and patients do not have confidence in the office’s financial protocols. Nail down verbiage as a team that will show the patients that the office cares, and also sets very reasonable expectations for patient copayments at the time of service.
5. Establish when a signed financial agreement is necessary
Set a “floor limit” for the treatment amount that requires a financial agreement in your office, even if that amount is $5. Once you have established your base threshold, work to consistently get commitments in writing for how the patient will handle their financial obligation prior to scheduling the treatment appointment.
6. Consistency and accuracy are the key
Whatever financial processes and protocols you put in place in your practice, it is important to be as accurate as possible and remain consistent across the board. This means getting a detailed insurance verification breakdown, treatment history, and making sure the updated fee schedules are on the patient’s treatment plan.
7. Have simple pre-treatment and post-treatment payment options
Even if you are getting financial arrangements set up with every patient prior to scheduling their treatment, be prepared for unexpected post treatment account balances, and have options available for patients to pay those balances. These unexpected balances can result in harder discussions with patients, but showing the patient the treatment plan with the full fee — and communicating clearly that they are responsible for what their insurance does not pay — can help set clear expectations.
Once you are ready to send statements for outstanding account balances, it doesn’t have to be the most dreaded time of each month. eAssist Dental Solutions can help by sending statements regularly, setting up a dedicated phone line for patients to call about their balances, and more! Reach out to a Patient Billing Specialist at 1-844-327-7478 to learn how eAssist can free up so much time while getting that outstanding money into the office!