How often do we get that question in the dental office? Every time it hits you like a wall of bricks, doesn’t it? Let’s make that question one of the past as we set up the right payment expectations for our patients before we ever collect a penny. Here are the key interactions to let the patient know that payment is always due at time of service.
1. As you go over their treatment plan:
Before a patient ever gets treatment completed, they should be having a treatment plan presented to them. This includes your same-day emergency patients! This is the prime time to let the patient know that payment is due at time of service. But how do you slip that in? Let me give you a few examples:
Scenario 1: Johnny is checking out after their hygiene appointment. They have a crown that needs to be scheduled ASAP. You present the treatment plan to Johnny and let them know insurance’s estimated portion, as well as their estimated portion.
“Johnny, for the crown on tooth number 2 we are estimating insurance to cover $550 and your estimated portion is $550, which is due when you come in. My next available appointment is ________ or _____________. Which works best for you?”
Don’t miss a beat, and just let the patient know that this portion is due when they come in, and don’t forget to mention it is always an estimation.
Scenario 2: Mary comes in for an emergency exam for pain on her lower right side. The Dr. sees that the tooth is unsavable and that Mary needs an extraction. Mary is ready to move forward today to get out of pain as soon as possible. The Dr. is preparing to numb the patient to get things moving along before his next patient, but you realize you haven’t gone over a treatment plan with the patient. You run to the back and give the Dr. the signal you need to talk about finances. He pulls off his gloves and sits the patient up, as you sigh with relief. There has been too many times the patient was not prepared to pay the same day and you unfortunately were unable to ever collect those accounts easily. You go over the patient’s estimated portion that will be due today and give her the option to pay now while she is in the chair. Crisis averted!
2. As you collect their balance:
The patient has completed their treatment and it is time to collect their estimated portion due. This is a key time to mention a few important items. First, always tell the patient that:
“We are ESTIMATING your portion to be $_______. How would you like to take care of that today?”
No pauses or hesitations on your end.
Second, as you are submitting the patient’s payment and handing them their receipt, this is the perfect time to mention:
“If there is any difference in your portion due after we receive insurance back, then we will send you a statement in the mail.”
This is a great way to disarm the patient ahead of time in case they do receive another statement in the mail, due to a number of different reasons. If the patient questions why they would ever have to pay more, it is a great time to educate the patient that insurance is always an estimation and we can never guarantee payment from them. However, we always fight for the greatest reimbursement for our patients. Take the pressure OFF YOU and ON THE INSURANCE.
Some patients may still push the boundaries to see how far they can go with delaying their payment. This is why it is important to have solid systems in place, sprinkled with great customer service. This allows the patient to be aware, ahead of time, what their expectations are when it comes to money. For more scripts on how to respond to a patient’s objection to paying, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I will send you those resources for free. These two interactions with the patients can make or break your aging report and finally give your office peace when the dreaded: “Can I just be billed?” question is asked.