April 11, 2021
It is impossible for any dentist in USA to get paid 100% of the time for the treatment they provide. The rising treatment costs for retaining the aesthetics and functions of the oral cavity piles up the accounts receivable in the patient’s balance sheet. Such monetary burdens can often have an impact on the relation between the patient and the dentist, financial management of the dentist and welcomes legal proceedings in the matter at times. Debt collection agencies thus enter the scenario in order to ease this tension.
Unpaid bills are a huge problem for nearly all dental practices. A dental debt collection agency will help you recover maximum money from your patients. A collection agency will treat your patients with dignity and use diplomatic tactics to explain patients the downside of not making the payment. Dental bill collection agencies are experts in their field and follow HIPAA and FDCPA guidelines for your protection.
Before proceeding with the way debt collection agencies work, it is important to emphasize on the way the patient-dentist communication must flow before carrying out any treatment. Once the dentist diagnosis the patient’s condition, he or she should explain the patient in a written format about the way the treatment plan must proceed. By doing so, the dentist gets a verbal consent from the patient based on the treatment plan explained. During this communication, the dentist will also offer multiple options for certain treatment modalities. For example, a patient who requires a crown will be presented with the option of both a stainless steel crown and a tooth-colored crown. The latter’s cost is higher, and the patient is informed about the same. This way, the sum total of the treatment cost is known.
Next, the dentist will discuss about the payment mode. Whether the patient prefers to pay in cheques, cash or card. Developed countries may also have provision for dental insurance which should also be discussed. Once the payment options have been settled upon, the dentist can commence with the treatment.
Despite such thorough communication, patients may not be able to pay all the fees or may choose not to pay at that hour. In such a case, the role of the dentist is to give an invoice or a bill to the patient at every subsequent visit. The patient is tracked for his or her past due payments. Once the response of the patient towards settling the debt appears negative, the dentist can hire a dental debt collection agency.
Many points need to be considered before opting and selecting for a debt collection agency. Firstly, they should have a clear track record with no malpractices associated with their name. These agencies should be in sync with state or central or federal government norms of the respective country. Secondly, a debt collection agency should have enough experience in dental debt collection. They should have all the needed software that permits transfer of amount to the dentist’s account as and when the debt is collected. Next, the debt collection agency must be completely professional in its approach. It should not resort to practices that compromises the patient-dentist relationship. It is always preferred that debt collection agencies function in the same time zone as that of the patient and dentist. This is crucial as follow-ups in debt collection becomes easy.
Debt collection by the hired agencies is done in a step-wise manner. Debt collectors do not enter the picture straight away. Initially, the dental staff sends a notice to the patient’s address or email id regarding their pending statement. After three such notices have been sent, and the amount has not been received yet after a 30-day period, the dental team can choose to call the patient’s residence or private number as reminders. However, the dentist should ensure that calls should be made in the time slot as mentioned in the law of each state. For example, in certain states, calling at any time other than 9.00 a.m. to 8 p.m. is considered harassment. Moreover, these calls must not be made repeatedly else it would compromise the dentist-patient relationship. After a 60-day period and 90-day period, the final two notices are sent to the patient.
Debt collection agencies now enter the fray. All collections done are now tracked by both the dentist and the collection agencies. The debt collectors show the past proofs of the notices, reminders and invoices sent to the patient, based on which debt collection is done. These agencies should be consistent in their follow-up depending on the total debt amount and the relationship of the dentist to the patient. It is recommended that dentists keep the printed records of collection calls and notices in a separate documentation folder and not in the patient’s files. This is in favour of the dentist, as in the court of law it shall not appear that the dentist and his or her team was solely interested in the patient’s money. Some debt collection agencies also have a skip tracing feature, wherein they take extra efforts to hunt down missing patients who are in debt.
Debt collection agencies must keep a thorough record of the total debt collection done by them and should be in accordance with the laws. Smart analytics and expert counselors in the debt collection team further enhances their credibility. The triad of patient, dentist and debt collectors should work in an extremely professional, hassle-free manner such that neither the practice of the dentist, the patient’s responsiveness and the collection agency’s workflow is hampered or compromised.