Maximizing a Patient Financing Program

by Cathy Jameson, Ph.D.

Accounts receivable transfer

Every day that an account sits on your books doing nothing, you lose money because (1) the cost of running a banking business within your practice; (2) the chances of never collecting the account; and (3) the “loss of the dollar” as it sits on your books depreciating in value make the carrying of accounts a difficult business process.

Therefore, if you have existing accounts receivable, consider making an active effort to transfer as many of those accounts as possible to your patient financing program. Get the money in the bank and let professionals take over the management of these accounts. Do not think you are doing your patients a

favor by letting them delay payment to you. You are not doing them a favor by letting them get into a negative financial situation with you. You are only supporting behavior that is unacceptable to the world at large. And you are certainly not doing anything to support the sound financial status of your own business. Remember that people who owe you money usually do not feel good about you or the relationship. Being “square” financially is an asset to relationships while having a financial challenge between you can deteriorate a relationship.

Suggested steps for this transfer:

1. Analyze your accounts receivable. Determine the following:

a. How much is insurance? How much is private pay?

b. Of the private pay accounts, how much is 30, 60, 90, 120 (or more) days past due?

c. Those accounts that are extremely past due and have had no activity whatsoever, may need to be turned over for legal action. (Make sure the dentist approves all accounts to be turned over or written off.) Be certain that you have made a concerted effort to collect the account and that the patient has been unwilling to negotiate a settlement of the account before you turn anything over for collection.

2. For all of the remaining accounts, create a letter introducing the idea of transferring accounts to your patient financing program. Expound on the benefits of the program, such as:

a. Longer time in which to pay the account.

b. Smaller monthly payments.

c. No large payments due at one time.

d. No initial or yearly fee to become involved with the program.

e. Available credit for emergencies or for necessary and desired treatment.

f. If you are charging a service fee that is higher than the financing program, stress the benefit of the lower service fee. (Make sure it is!)

3. Send an application and a brochure with this letter. Send this letter in a separate mailing, rather than with statements. Place the letter on your letterhead stationery and place it in one of your letterhead envelopes. This needs to be a special mailing in order to get a special response from your patients.

4. Begin a telephone campaign to all of those patients who have not responded to your mailings.

Track your telephone calls. Make notes of who you have called, those who were sent an application, the date you sent the application, the date it was received back in the office, and any comments relative to the conversation.

(Note: If a patient is abiding by a previously agreed upon financial arrangement go ahead and offer the program to him/her, but willingly allow him/her to maintain this agreement if it is comfortable.)

5. At the next statement run–another month has passed–send a follow-up letter with another brochure and another application to anyone who has not yet transferred their account.

6. Continue your telephone campaign to anyone who has not responded. Don’t give up.

7. By now you should have had a strong response to your efforts–if you have followed the recommended regime carefully and with commitment. If you are not going to follow the campaign through to the end–with consistency–don’t expect a great response.

If you do have accounts receivable at the present time perform an accounts receivable transfer. The money you have been carrying on your own books is going to be converted to cash and that doesn’t hurt when bills have to be paid. The money sitting on your books is doing nothing but losing value for you every day. Conversion of these accounts is excellent business.

Chart auditing

When someone says “CHART AUDIT”, most dental professionals freak out. You are busy and can’t imagine when or how you would get that done. Let me give you a couple of suggestions.

1. Morning meetings

One of the main things you do in a good morning meeting is review the treatment plans of the day’s patients to identify the next phase of diagnosed treatment. Then, when the patient is in the treatment area, take a photograph of the next phase of necessary treatment. Spend time with the patient stressing the importance of the next phase of treatment.

As you are speaking about the necessary treatment, introduce your patient financing program. For example:

“Mrs. Jones, let me tell you about a new program that we have in our practice. It” called ABC Financing. This is our new financial partner. They work with us here in our practice to help our patients finance their dental care. The treatment that the doctor has recommended to you is so important and I know you don’t want to put it off and risk having greater problems. With ABC, you can finance your care. The monthly payments are small, you can take longer to pay and you will not have to come up with a large sum at once. Would you like to speak further about this with our business team? Great. Then, if you have no further questions about the treatment itself, I’ll go with you to the business office where the ladies will discuss our program with you. Many of our patients have found it helpful.”

2. Complete Chart Audit

If you want to build your practice more quickly and increase your production in a profound way, you could do a full blown chart audit.

Handle a chart audit in the following manner:

Audit 20 charts per week. Go through each chart and determine whether a person has incomplete treatment-they may be past due for a hygiene appointment or they may have been current in hygiene but have necessary treatment prescribed but incomplete. (Most doctors tell me that if a treatment plan is six months old or older, that they want to see the patient in hygiene and do another evaluation. Discuss this as a team). Once you have audited the 20 charts, begin a telephone campaign. Do not audit ALL of your charts and put off the phone calls. The contact with the patient is the important moment. Make careful notes in regard to your responses. Not everyone is going to schedule, but if 20% of your calls result in a scheduled appointment–that’s great. If the rate is higher, even better!!!

Your phone call could go something like this:

“Mrs. Jones, this is Cathy with Dr. Jameson’s dental office. Mrs. Jones, Dr. Jameson has been reviewing your file and realized that the treatment he had recommended for you had not been completed and he was concerned. He asked that I call you today and see if you had questions. (Then discuss the treatment and stress the importance of proceeding.) Mrs. Jones, at the same time that I am calling to discuss the treatment that the doctor has recommended, I wanted to tell you about a new program we have in our practice called ABC Financing. (Then go into a discussion of the program much as I described in the previous paragraphs.)

Once you have gone through the first 20 charts, do the next 20, and so on through your entire file of charts. You’ll make progress. But, you have to start. And you have to be consistent and persistent. The reaching of your goal: to audit your charts, to reactivate and schedule patients, to introduce your patient financing program to patients, to increase the production of the practice begins when you pull that first chart.

People will be glad to know that you care–that you haven’t forgotten them–and that you are fulfilling your responsibility to take care of th
em. Many will schedule. People will not be upset with you for this call. They will be glad you contacted them.

Cathy Jameson is president of Jameson Management, Inc., an international dental lecture and consulting firm. She has 26 years of “hands-on” experience in her husband’s practice and more than 15 years of lecturing and consulting.