Even before the pandemic began, conversations surrounding patient finances and collections may have been challenging for our business teams.
Although the COVID-19 virus is still of significant concern, it did not change the need for great dental care.
What did change is that many household budgets are now tighter than ever before and patients across the country are taking a closer look at our dental office fees.
As a fee-for-service practice, I want to share some tips with other dental practice managers to be more successful in the accounts receivable process.
One of my favorite business quotes is by Willis Chairman and CEO Joe Plumeri, who says,
“Price is only an issue in the absence of value.”
Patients who find high value and trust in your practice will feel comfortable in paying a premium for dental care and will sign treatment plans without hesitation.
If you fail to successfully establish that value, it will be more difficult to convert treatment plans into production, as well as schedule future appointments.
It’s our job as business leaders to help create and convey a practice’s value. It’s important that we train our front-line business teams to genuinely believe that the services we provide are the right ones for the patient so that they feel confident in collecting at the visits.
How to show value to customers in 4 easy steps
As part of my team training, the doctor spends time coaching why we make the clinical treatment decisions that we do for our patients.
Even though certain staff members may not have a clinical background, we do this so the team knows we are making sound decisions to meet the patient’s needs, and not our production goals.
This step helps the business team’s success and confidence to collect during the check-out in four easy steps.
1. Check the patient’s “happiness gauge”
Was the patient happy with today’s appointment?
“Look at that beautiful smile! It looks like it was another fantastic visit today!”
If they answer yes, take the opportunity to request an online review.
If they were unhappy for any reason, we can address the issue before they leave, and minimize the risk of a negative review or poor word of mouth.
2. Schedule the next appointment before they leave
It takes less time now than to use valuable man-hours later for follow up with mailing postcards, sending text messages, and emails to track down outstanding recare patients.
As a multi-location practice, we also use check-out as a marketing opportunity. Even though we know that this patient likes to be seen in a particular office, we ask, “I know you usually like to be seen in our Greenbrae location, but I also have our Mill Valley location available. Which works best for you?”
Mentioning such may prompt them to remember a friend that lives near the other location that they can refer to us, or simply realize that they have options to best accommodate their schedule.
3. Build the value by verbally re-stating what was done
“For today’s visit, we are able to complete the comprehensive exam and cleaning, take the cavity-checking digital x-rays, and paint on the fluoride vitamins to keep your teeth strong. Wonderful! It sounds like you had a great checkup, and we were able to do everything you needed!”
The verbiage creates a meaningful checklist as you remind the patient of all the benefits they received from their visit.
4. Ask for payment last, to show that you are not all about the money
As I mentioned, we are a fee-for-service practice, so the scripting we use is, “As you know, we will be filing a claim to your insurance as a courtesy for you. They will be reimbursing you directly based on the out-of-network rates established between the insurance company and your employer. You should expect that check to arrive directly from the insurance company very soon, as we sent the claim over immediately for you.”
This reminds them that if they are unhappy with the reimbursement, it should be brought to the attention of their employer or insurance company since we did not negotiate their rates.
Our goal is to be prompt in sending the claim for them to receive the reimbursement check as soon as possible.
“We will be collecting a total of $200 for today’s visit. How would you like to take care of that today?”
I am not asking if they would like to pay it but rather asking how they will pay it. Paying it is not an option before they leave. However, I do accept all forms of payment, and they can choose which works best for them.
Apply these 4 steps and start building value
By following these easy four steps, you will successfully conclude the patient’s appointment.
Start by checking their “happiness gauge,” schedule appointments for future production, establish the value in your fees, and finally, mention filing claims, and requesting payment.
Don’t underestimate the importance of showing your patients that you care about them first and that the money comes last.
Meet the Author
Kristi Abrahamsen… This text opens a new tab to Kristi’s about page…, MAADOM is privileged to serve as the President and a Member of the Bay Area, CA AADOM Chapter… This text opens a new tab to the Bay Area chapter’s website….
Since 1991, she has worked in multiple capacities throughout both orthodontic and periodontic specialty practices. In addition to being a registered dental assistant, she currently leads as a dental office manager for Gila C. Dorostkar, DDS Pediatric Dentistry… This text opens a new tab to the practice’s website…, a multi-location, multi-doctor practice in the San Francisco Bay Area.
Kristi is a Disney Institute alumni and shares her strong passion for outstanding customer service and commitment to excellence with her team.