Working Overdue Patient Accounts Over 90 Days
Working overdue patient accounts takes lots of energy and time! I set aside a special time each month to do this. On the Tuesday of each month, I print a patient ageing report. On the third Tuesday of each month, I focus on the patient balances over 90 days. I then set aside a time to work on it. The amount of time you are going to need to work on your patient accounts over 90 days will depend on how large this is for you.
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Print the patient aging report with the largest balances first. You might also be given the option of printing the patient ageing report with the oldest balances first. Because I print these reports each and every week, I don’t need the oldest first. I know exactly what is going to be in my report. However, I want to attempt to get the largest balances paid first.
How do patient accounts get to this over 90 day point? Every account has a story. When patients are not paying in full at the time of service there are going to be stories. If insurance is also being billed, there is another story. Insurance companies can deny a claim. Insurance coverage can terminate. Patients get sick. They also lose their jobs or any number of situations.
It’s important to stay positive. Go into every conversation believing that your patient has good intent. If they are avoiding your call, know it’s most likely because they feel bad. Which is a good thing. But that means your main objective is to help them get comfortable talking to you about this money. You don’t want them running from you. Stay friendly. Be kind. Work with people and they will work with you.
Working Overdue Patient Accounts: Review Carefully
Before you do anything on the accounts, be sure you know them inside out. Take each account individually. One at a time. Start with the largest balance. Review the patient information. Know who is on the account. Read through the patients’ ledgers. Compare all outstanding balances for each patient against their chart notes. You are looking for anything unusual that might matter. You also want to just educate yourself on your patient’s treatment before reaching out.
Print out each individual account. As you are working each account, you will want to print the ledger. Make notes on your printout who the balances are for. Know what dates of service the balances are coming from. We are looking at the over 90 day patient accounts, so you might have already reached out to these patients. You might already know everything there is to know about these accounts from previous auditing.
Check to make sure any insurance payments or adjustments are correct. Working overdue patient accounts can be tough enough without stepping on a land mine. Which is exactly what could happen. I’ve done it. I’ve called a patient about an overdue balance. Then as they were asking me questions about the account, I realized the insurance company didn’t pay correctly, or an adjustment wasn’t done right. It’s not the end of the world, but it sure is embarrassing.
Once you’ve kind of digested a patient account, call on that account before moving on to another. Take one at a time. Understand one and call on that account before looking at another. Again, you might not be calling on many of these over 90 day patient accounts. Hopefully, you’ve been working on them for a little while now. It might be that you are just calling patients to remind them of payments due.
Working Overdue Patient Accounts: Payment Plans
Of course we want payment in full! Once in a while, you might see that happen on an account like this. Most likely, you have had to make some sort of payment arrangements with patients. If you need to set up payment arrangements, try to get a credit card you can keep on file to process on the same date each month. Otherwise, you are going to be calling your patients to remind them of payments due.
Call to remind of a payment that is due. It will feel better to call to remind of a payment due than to call about a payment missed. It’s a great idea to make yourself a reminder to call a patient 2 -3 days before a payment is due. When you are creating a payment plan with a patient, set a date that would be best for that them to make that payment. You will also want to set a payment amount.
What do you say? If you are reminding of a payment coming up.. “Hello, John. This is April @ Dr Brown’s office. I’m calling as a reminder that your payment of $100 is due on Wednesday. Would you like to leave your card on file for me to run on Wednesday? Okay. We’ll wait for your call. Thank you.”
Most likely you will be leaving a message. So, you want to be careful about the actual message. “Hello, This is April at Dr. Brown’s dental office. Leaving a reminder for you that we are looking forward to your call on Wednesday. If you would like to reach out to us before Wednesday, you can reach me directly at 888-9999.
Working Overdue Patient Accounts: Unable To Pay
Sometimes a patient might tell you that they have no ability to pay. I’ve heard those exact words. I think for the most part, people have some kind of income. They might not be able to pay it in full. They might not even be able to make payments in the amount that they would like to make. But they can probably make some kind of payment.
I always ask for something. When those conversations happen, I ask patients to pay something. I will ask them to pay $5.00 a month and to increase that as their finances improve. Setting up some kind of payment plan shows good intent on the patient’s part. It also makes them feel committed to the balance. It might even ease their conscience a little.
Set a time limit when small monthly payments are set up. Go with 90 days. If your patient pays $5.00 a month for 3 months, they have paid $15.00 more than they had paid. Then you can reach out to them again and ask that they increase the monthly payment. Ask if they can pay $25.00 a month now. If not, slide back down to something they can do. Increase it to something. Even if it is only to $6.00. Then re-evaluate again in another 90 days. The idea is to keep them connected to your practice and get it paid in full without paying a 3rd party.
When To Move On
Know when to pass the baton! When we are working overdue patient accounts, sometimes we just can’t make anything happen. It’s important to document all of your attempts to reach out to your patient. Document any phone conversations. Copy any letters you’ve sent the patient. Record any payment arrangements made and if those payments were made or not. This will give you the information you will need to review with your dentist and decide which steps to take next. It just might be time to hand over the account to a 3rd party. Or, you could just remove this uncomfortable and time consuming task from your dental front office altogether!
“When patients don’t pay attention to you, third-party intervention makes all the difference.”