How does your office present financial arrangements?
If you don’t know the answer to that question you are not alone. So many doctors don’t have an idea of what the team is actually saying to patients when it comes to presenting financial issues. First it is usually left up to the “front, or admin” and no one else even knows what the options are for their office. At The Academy, we believe everyone should be able to present financial arrangements and know what the office options are for them. As a business owner, you should be aware of the financial options your team is presenting and what they are saying. Here are a few guidelines for you to create an office policy for financial arrangements, train the team to present financials, and follow up on their successes.
When you create an office policy for financial arrangements, discuss your decisions with the team so they are familiar with what your practice will offer. First you must talk about who will discuss arrangements and where. Then make sure it is documented in the same place no matter who discusses it. Lastly, how will you track it? No matter where you decide to discuss it, the operatory, consult room, or front desk, make sure you have everything you need right there.
Then you need to decide on what the options are. Make sure the team knows which credit cards you accept. Is there a discount if patient pays in full? How much and by which method? Most offices offer a prepayment discount of 5%-7% if patients pay in full by check or cash, prior to the appointment.
Next, what other options do we have available to patients? Decide what you want to offer with no interest. Usually I see 50% down, and then payments over 2-3 months. I like to get a credit card on file for those 2-3 payments and then you can agree on a date to run the card.
Another thing to decide on is your VIP patients. This is the list of patients that receive a discount, and at what percent. This may be the doctor’s family, friends, team members, etc.
How do you handle new patients? One way is to have the new patient pay their first visit and have insurance reimburse them. If you are a PPO office, ask them to pay their co-payment. I know several offices that verify the new patients’ insurance prior to their visit when possible, and then allow the patient to pay their portion that day. Whatever you decide on as your policy, just be clear and stick to it!
Now it’s time to train the team! Keep it simple. I like using an Excel spreadsheet that lists all of our office options. This allows me to just plug in a couple of numbers, like the total fee, minus any insurance or down payment. Then Excel figures everything else out based on our office options. The Academy also offers a customized auto-calculating form that can be purchased atwww.productivedentist.com/store. This makes it easy for team members as well. It allows them to say things like, “which option would work best for you?” This removes the fear a team member may have about presenting the options and getting them right. I always coach team members to practice this with each other, and use these phrases:
- “my role is to help you schedule time in your busy schedule and make sure you explore all your financial options with us.”
- “let’s look at some options together”
- “nine out of ten times I can help patients work this into their budget, I’m sure it will be the same with you”
Have the team practice these phrases, and then use them when presenting options to a patient.
Most importantly, we must track those payments. Keep records of when payments are due and run credit cards when you agreed to do so. Each month, run your account aging report and look at your 30, 60, and 90 day overdue totals. Follow your system for keeping those accounts paid.
Remember, Doctor, you are the business owner, and we want you to be productive. You must offer options to allow patients to have the dentistry they need and deserve. Create your office financial policy and share it with everyone on the team, even if they don’t present financials. Everyone should be able to let your patients know that there is an option for them.