Unpaid Dental Fees – Debt Collection
At Frontline Collections, we help a large number of Dental Practices across the UK and specialise in delivering a professional service. We not only recover monies owed but do so in a manner that is consistent with the standards and ethics which are present within the practices own modus operandi.
Our industry experience, coupled with a willingness to help, we have compiled a helpful guide for our clients (old and new) operating within the Dental Industry to hopefully help them minimise bad debts in the future and what to do when one arises.
It is a fact that almost every practice has at least a few bad debts and it is important to remember that no practice has ever lost a patient simply because they have been asked to pay their bill! Whilst every dentist acts in good faith, some ‘patients’ with have the agenda of doing everything they possibly can to avoid paying their dues and this is where we can assist.
Here is our top 10 tips to help avoid ‘debtor’ problems for Dental practices.
1. It is always best to discuss payment at the initial consultation. As part of the normal consent process, most clinicians will discuss the pros and cons of each treatment option and will outline which they feel is in the patient’s best interest. At this point the aspect of cost should be discussed and how the treatment will be paid for whether in part or full thereof. Many practices now offer finance so this should remove the potential for any ‘debt’ to be accrued apart from where additional treatment is requested or required.
2. Many practices employ treatment coordinators to help explain treatment options. Such coordinators are usually an experienced member of the dental nursing or receptionist team who understands what is involved in the treatment and can therefore answer the majority of patient’s questions. Again, an ideal time to approach the subject of fees, as patients will almost certainly use such information when reaching a decision about their intended course of treatment.
3. Understanding the differences in the relative cost of the various options presented is an important part of patient choice.
4. The use of written treatment plans and estimates should be regarded as essential for larger and more complicated treatment plans. These can be in the form of a pro-forma or included as part of a letter. In addition, you should make sure the contents of the estimate are written in plain English to avoid confusion.
5. Make sure the patient knows their own obligations in relation to the payment of fees, particularly if payment is to be in instalments. In this respect the use of monthly or weekly payments by standing order has proved extremely helpful to practices and patients alike as it allows the cost of treatment to be spread over the treatment period.
6. Asking patients to pay for their treatment on the day the treatment occurs is not unprofessional and provides a degree of transparency from the patient’s perspective.
7. Discount programmes and other ‘special offers’ may be regarded by the GDC, as a financial inducement to treatment and therefore should only be used appropriately to avoid potential ‘disputes’.
8. If a bad debt is incurred, always attempt your best to try and recover these fees in a professional manner. Telephoning a patient to ask for the debt is appropriate provided that you are sure that the person on the telephone is the patient. Always verify the identity of the person you are speaking to avoid breaching confidentiality of the patient who actually received the treatment.
9. Some practices have found that offering to take payments over the telephone using a credit or debit card can be an extremely helpful way of collecting unpaid fees, particularly for the more ‘forgetful’ patients.
10. The use of a Professional debt collection agency should be an option when the patient is clearly trying to avoid payment. It is detrimental to the day to day running of your practice to be chasing those that ‘don’t pay’ as opposed to concentrating on those that do. A final reminder letter should be sent to the patient advising of this and that additional Recovery charges maybe added to the debt. This will quite often have the desired effect but it is VERY important to add that the Agency you use to recover debts will need to have industry knowledge and be extremely professional so as not to tarnish your Business image.
As stated previously, no dental practice has ever lost a customer because they have been asked to pay and let us be honest, does any business want customers that do not pay?!
If you or your business are experiencing problems with non paying patients, speak to one of our friendly advisers today about of cost effective and professional Dental Debt Collection solution, you will be glad you did.