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Collecting debt can be an incredibly daunting task—especially in dentistry. While it’s true that debt can be inevitable, there are certainly ways to decrease its chances or even prevent it altogether. When sending notices only goes so far, try these tips to collect debt in dentistry.

  1. First: always inform patients of your financial policy and fees before providing any dental treatment.
  2. Second: make any financial arrangements before providing dental treatment.
  3. Third: always follow through with your word—whether it’s collecting a past-due balance or following up on an insurance claim. It’s important to make sure each patient feels secure and taken care of, as well as respected. With the proper information, they can make the right decisions about the proper treatment and payment options.

Related: Empathy in Medical Collections: Why It’s Important and How to Start

More Tips on Collecting Debt in Dentistry

Outline a treatment plan for your patients in writing. Make sure it’s easy to read, clear and concise. Try to avoid complicated dental jargon and terminology. Develop a treatment plan that clearly goes over the entire process. Put a disclaimer statement at the bottom of your treatment plan that makes room for any unexpected changes in treatment.

Don’t forget the most important thing: to have your patients sign all consent forms. Include any lending agreements and explain all fees and payment options. Keep in mind that changing how—and when—you accept payment from your patients is one of the most challenging aspects in dental practice.

Sample Script

When you are confident, your patients don’t have much of an opportunity to object. Here’s an example script: “Mrs. Parker, your fee for today is $700. Your insurance may pay around $500. Your estimated portion is $200. How would you like to pay today: cash, check, or card?” Mrs. Jones may reply, “Just bill me as usual.” You can reply, “Actually, we are so excited, our accountant was just in and set up new payment guidelines. We can now take payment right here in this office by cash, check, or bank card. Which would you prefer?”

If Mrs. Parker becomes upset, let her know you understand why she wouldn’t be aware of the recent changes and offer a courtesy statement via mail. Ask Mrs. Parker to send the payment in the mail as soon as she can, and that your office will follow up in five days if you haven’t received a payment. This solution is a simple way to alleviate any negative responses to your change in payment policy. Also, Mrs. Parker now knows about your new payment guidelines for the next appointment!

Collecting Past Due Payments in Dentistry

When tracking past-due balances, remember to be consistent. A good tip is to send three notices before taking collective action. First, send the current invoice. Then, send a kind reminder after 30 days. After this point, calling the patient to collect the debt is acceptable. 

However, keep in mind that dentistry is a sensitive field, and patients may be going through a hard time with medical debt. After 60 days, send a second notice. If you don’t get a response after 90 days, send a collective action notice. It’s important to wait no longer than 90 days to hire a collection agency, or else your chance of collecting the debt goes down.

Related: When is it Time to Hire a Debt Collector?

Reminder to Remain Consistent

You may lose credibility if you repeatedly send final notices without taking any final action. Not only is this counterproductive, but it may have legal implications. According to our Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, sending more than one final notice is considered harassment and the patient may take your dental practice to court.

Regardless of your dental practice’s policies, be consistent in putting them in writing and always follow through. Picture this: 50% percent of dental patients listen with their ears, and 50% listen with their eyes. Most patients need to actually see something tangible, in writing before it becomes believable. 

Always keep track of how many notices are sent to each patient, and write detailed notes regarding conversations on collection attempts. However, never write your collection notes in your progress and treatment notes. In court, it may be perceived that your office was only interested in the patient’s money. Always keep records of collection calls and notices separate from the patients’ treatment files.

Southwest Recovery Services

We are a trusted, nationally recognized collection agency with offices in Dallas, Austin, Houston, San Antonio and Oklahoma City. To learn more about our practice or to collect a debt, contact us today.