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The coronavirus pandemic has impacted every aspect of dentistry including collections. Dental practice team members know that many of their patients may be facing financial challenges because of company closures and stay-at-home directives. However, they also know that they need to collect payment in order to keep the dental practice running. 

Dr. John Meis, CEO of the Spark Dental Network & Team Training Institute, shares valuable information and has several recommendations to help you optimize your collections during coronavirus.

 

 

Stay on Top of Collections

Here are three areas that dental teams should be tracking daily, just as they would normally do: counter collections, patient accounts receivable, and insurance A/R. Any payments by check should be deposited in the bank the day they are received.

Over the Counter Collections

Because you may be open to provide emergency dental care, make sure all patients give you signed consent to do the work. Money is going to be tight for everyone. “This is one time I would ask for full payment,” said Dr. Meis. “Even if normally you just ask for the patient's portion, I would ask for the full payment. There's no reason not to. If their insurance company pays, you can always send them a refund.” 

Taking the patient’s credit card information when they arrive and having them sign consent to charge the treatment fee prior to treatment will eliminate collection issues after the emergency treatment is done.

Insurance A/R

The systems in place for filing insurance claims and receiving payments from insurance companies are continuing, said Dr. Meis. “We thought they might slow down to a crawl, but that is not what we are experiencing.” In Oklahoma, where Dr. Meis has his network of dental practices, insurance payments have not slowed down.

Whether the dental practice has someone working in the dental office or from home, continue your insurance claim cycle. File insurance claims daily for dental services provided that day. Make sure your claims are filed and fully documented. Dr. Meis recommends checking  on claims in process, just as you normally would. 

“Our process for following up is day 15,” said Dr. Meis. “If we don't have payment by day 15, we contact the insurance company, either online or by phone, and ask, did you get our claim? If they say yes, we’re going to say, ‘Great. When can I expect payment,’ and tie them down to a date. If they say no, we can resubmit the claim.” If the payment does not come in within 15 days, the insurance coordinators follow up again.

If insurance claim payments are 60 days overdue from an insurance company, you may want to resubmit all of the claims as a block, rather than call about every claim. Most insurance companies do not pay claims that have been stuck in their system for months. Because the claims are stuck, it “never hurts to do a block resubmission,” explained Dr. Meis. “If you resubmit now, you are back on your 15-day cycle for follow up and won’t lose track yourself.”

Review Your Collections Processes

While you are not as busy, use this time to look at your insurance collection process, examine your write-offs, and improve your process for future collections. 

People are going to ask questions, and we know patient trust is improved by consistency. Having a document that answers payment and collections questions will help your team learn what your policy and processes are right now and when it comes time to responding to patient questions, a clear, consistent answer will reduce stress for both practice employees and patients.

Become Creative About Collections

Any amount of revenue is going to pay for something you cannot cut from your budget. Dr. Meis recommended these ideas for increasing collections now.

  1. For follow-up treatment that will be rescheduled in the future, offer a discount for prepayment. “I know a practice that is doing this,” said Dr. Meis. “They’re calling patients that were scheduled and saying: We look forward to seeing you. We’d like to offer you a prepayment discount on your service, if you would like to pay today. This will help take care of our team during this time, and will give you a lower price than waiting to pay when you come in.  One in three people they called, prepaid for their treatment.”
  2. Another creative offer could be discounting people with a balance if they pay it now.
  3. Another option that can be deployed is offering gift certificates for discounted services. For example, they could spend $80 to receive a gift certificate for $100 in services. 

 

The goal is to collect revenue now while also preparing your schedule for when you reopen. By collecting insurance A/R, collecting from emergency dental patients at the time of their service, and offering creative solutions to help both your patients and your practice, you can weather this difficult time. 

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