Providing great patient care is important, but if you don’t have sufficient cash flow, you will not be able to consistently provide patients with the care they need.
Talking about money and offering payment options is an important component of the doctor-patient relationship. Below are a few actions you and your team should consider when talking about fees or collecting from patients:
- I will always advocate for giving patients some payment options, yet you want to be sure to not confuse your patients with too many options when discussing major restorative treatment. You will lose the patient’s attention between the discussion of treatment options and payment options. Have your options clear and concise with a written representation of the options. I would leave it at a deposit, a final payment and perhaps two payments in between. Discussion regarding insurance coverage should be kept at a minimum and should not be front and centre in the conversation.
- Always let the patient talk first. Dentists and team members are famous for presenting treatment and fees without stopping for a breath before talking about finances. Every Dentist or Treatment Coordinator will have their speech down pat about the benefits/consequences of any treatment plan which they are familiar with, but the patient may have ever heard some of those words before. Take a breath and allow the patient to absorb the treatment without talking about fees in the same breath. Silence is your friend in this situation.
- Every office has had those instances where patients come in and you take one look and your first thought is “No way is this person ever going to say YES to optimal care, and even if they do, there is no way they can afford it.” By doing this we violate the first principle of honoring a patient. While you are the expert on the dental care, you are never the expert on the patient themselves. Prejudging a patient’s perceived ability to pay is an all-around bad practice. Don’t worry about how a patient will react when you present the fee. If you spend too much time wondering how they’re going to react, it can keep you from giving them the optimal care they deserve.
- You should always avoid scheduling patients with a poor payment history until their previous balance has been taken care of. Scheduling patients who have an outstanding balance at your practice encourages them to continue their behavior, which will result in further problems. Two things always happen in these predicaments: First, the patients’ balances will continue to grow or second, and they cancel their future appointments. When patients have a balance, one of the best things you can say to them is, “Let’s put together a plan to get your account caught up before we proceed.”
- Always ensure that the person discussing fees in your office is confident that the treatment is of value. This person must have confidence when talking about money whether they have their own money or not. Whether the confidence is pre-existing or acquired through coaching and courses, it must be there. Patients can look in somebody’s eyes and see if that person has low self-esteem around money. It’s critical to have someone who has been well-trained handling the details of money. On top of it, this person must also believe that money spent in your office is some of the best money patients could ever invest.
In summary, if you establish healthy rules and boundaries surrounding the way your office collects patient fees and handles money it will help you secure your cash flow and improve the long-term outlook of your practice. You always want to feel you’re your cash flow is predictable. This predictability will help relieve some of the stress of owning a dental practice.