Dental Practice Management: Is a Financial Arrangement Coordinator Necessary?

Dental Practice Management: Is a Financial Arrangement Coordinator NecessaryThe dental office financial arrangement coordinator is an important part of dental practice management.

The financial coordinator assists dental patients with making payment arrangements and coordinating dental insurance benefits so that dental treatments are compatible with the patient’s budget, thus you, the dentist, get paid in a timely manner.

When asked about having a financial arrangement coordinator for his dental office, one California dentist complained, “I wish everyone would just pay at the time of service!”

In our most recent survey, The Wealthy Dentist asked dentists if they employ a team member as a financial arrangements coordinator, and dentists were pretty split on their responses. 55% responded that they do not employ a team member as a financial arrangement coordinator, and 45% responded that they do employ a team member to carry out this important dental practice function.

Dentists’ feelings on the subject are mixed; some feel this type of position is better suited for larger dental practices, while others insist it’s absolutely necessary to have someone handle financial arrangements.

Here are just a few of the comments from the responding dentists:

“I have 1 designated team member to make financial arrangements, but occasionally another member has to step in due to the primary being out of the office for various reasons.” (Nevada dentist)

“We estimate dental insurance benefits, and receive the patient’s portion on the date services are provided. Other than that, the only other financial arrangement offered is through Care Credit. Our receptionist comfortably handles this as part of her duties.” (Illinois dentist)

“This is probably a great idea for larger multi-dentist offices, but I find it is not likely to be cost effective in a smaller practice.” (General dentist)

“We have only one person and no one else discusses money. That way it stays simple and patients can’t say someone told them something different. For the most part we have a set of rules to follow, but there is always that special situation where we break the norm.” (General dentist)

“Complete necessity to have someone ultimately responsible and the ‘go to’ person for all financial arrangements, especially patient interaction.” (Michigan dentist)

“An absolute necessity to have one person handling this!” (California dentist)

“This position is vital to keeping cash-flow running smoothly.” (General dentist)

“I make all the necessary financial arrangements directly with my patients, but I am an old-fashioned dentist in a small town, and I want to know what is going on (financially) with my patients.” (Kansas dentist)

How do you handle this dental practice management position in your dental practice? Is one person designated as your financial arrangements coordinator?

Dental Practice Management & Dental Insurance (Video)

Dental practice management and dental insuranceDental insurance is such a mixed bag. It can make patients more likely to seek treatment. dental insurance can bring new patients into a practice, and it’s the core of many dental practices.

Unfortunately, it can also lead not just to headaches, but also to lost income. Dentists know the fault lies not with the patients, but with the dental plans and insurance companies.

“Taking dental insurance allowances is a recipe for financial failure. Just look at the numbers,” said a Pennsylvania dentist.

This survey by The Wealthy Dentist asked doctors what percentage of their dental patients use dental insurance.

Jim Du Molin and Julie Frey discuss the dental practice management issues surrounding accepting dental insurance:

Of dentists responding to this survey, two out of five said that at least 70% of their patients have dental coverage.

“We will file for all our patients but are not in network with any insurance companies. I see about 50% of patients with insurance,” said a general dentist.

“We are not a preferred provider for anyone, but we accept any insurance that allows out-of-network dentists. We do charge the patient the difference between our fees and what the insurance pays,” said a Texas dentist.

What percentage of your patients still carry dental insurance?

Dental Insurance Survey: Dentists Handle Claims For Patients

dental insurance survey

When asked if they handle dental insurance for their patients, the dentists who responded yes to handling dental insurance were the clear majority in this survey.

On March 23, 2010, the Affordable Care Act became law and as states begin to deal with the implementation of the act, several are looking to adapt their own version of the plan.

California is just one of those states.

As reported in The Sun, Democrats in California have recently revived Senate Bill 810, which would create a public-private partnership to provide every California resident with medical, dental, vision, hospitalization and prescription drug benefits.

The California universal care plan would provide comprehensive dental care – something largely not addressed in the federal plan.

Here at The Wealthy Dentist, we were curious how dentists are currently handling dental insurance in their practices. Many of the dentists surveyed felt handling dental insurance for their patients is an important part of providing superior customer service.

“Not only do we handle insurance claims for our patients, but we also fight insurance companies for our patients until a claim is finally paid,” noted one dentist. “I believe its part of how much do we as dentists want to give customer service.”

In this survey, 85% of dentists handle all insurance claim forms for patients with dental insurance, 8% don’t accept insurance, and 7% don’t handle insurance claims, but do help patients fill out the forms.

Here are some dentist comments:

  • “Many of my patients would go elsewhere if they had to pay up front for services themselves.” (General dentist)
  • “I think its a matter of customer service to handle insurance for your patients.” (Indiana dentist)
  • “I pride myself on customer service and I believe it’s an absolute no-brainer as part of my truly great customer service. My team (including me) file ALL insurance claims for our patients.” (General dentist)
  • “As a specialist where one-time emergency visits are common, we find it necessary to research insurance benefits for our patients in order to present and collect estimated co-payments at the time of service.” (Ohio specialist)
  • “I would like to see better tools for educating patients about dental insurance benefits and liabilities, as well as setting better expectations with dental insurance verses medical insurance models.” (Massachusetts dentist)
  • “Dental insurance is one of the most aggravating things about dentistry. What I would like to do is collect from the patient, then help them submit the claims.” (California dentist)

For more on this survey see: Dental Insurance: Most dentists handle insurance claims for patients

Dentist Thinks All Dentists Should Drop Dental Insurance (video)

Dentist Thinks All Dentists Should Drop Dental Insurance (video)Dental insurance is a great way to bring in new dental patients, but it is also a great way to reduce a dental practice’s bottom line and give dentists less control over their dental practice.

Explained one endodontist, “If I dropped dental insurance I’d be cutting ties to 85% of my patient base!”

Another doctor suggested, “If all dentists dropped all insurances, then all dentists could collect fees in full from everyone!”

The Wealthy Dentist conducted a survey asking dentists if they have dropped dental insurance.  Many dentists responded that they are sick and tired of dental insurance companies dictating fees and treatments, leaving a number of them wanting to drop their dental health plans.

To hear more of what dentists had to say about dropping dental insurance, Click Play —

What are your thoughts on dental insurance?

Dental Management Survey: How Do You Handle Missed Appointments?

Charging for missed dental apointmentsWhen patients miss appointments, it affects dental practice revenue.

If it happens too often, it can turn into a dental practice management nightmare.

“In this day and age with e-mail, texting, cell phones, answering machines, Smile Reminders, etc., etc. There is no excuse for people to not show up for their dental or medical appointments or call to let the offices know they are running late or can’t make it. Its just pure laziness or lack of common courtesy.” Ohio prosthodontist

There are practice management tactics dentists can use to keep this problem from getting out of hand and ruining their practice. But do dentists use them?

In this dental survey, we report on how dentists handle patients who don’t show up.

Fees for missing dental appointments

When asked if they charge patients for missed appointments, 67% of our survey respondents said Yes – 28% charge a fee after the second missed appointment; 39% after the third miss.

One-third of our surveyed dentists said they don’t charge a penalty fee at all.

Chart: Do dentists charge for missed appointments?

Dentists charged patients between $25 and $100 for missing an appointment, with a $50 fee the most common.

“Our policy is a $50.00 no show charge after your 3rd no show appointment. We have done this only a few times. In the past when we tried it our patients threw a fit and a lot of times the charge was removed. How do we know if patient has a real emergency or creates an excuse? We try to emphasis that these are important appointments.” Missouri dentist

“We tried have chronic offenders pay a $50 booking fee before scheduling, this would be applied to the day’s fees or forfeited if the patient failed to show up. However the front desk staff was not consistent in enforcing it ON THE SAME PATIENT!!!” North Carolina dentist

Letting go of patients who miss too many dental appointments

Dentists don’t like to lose patients, under any circumstance.

But 68% of dentists in our survey said they will ‘fire’ patients who miss too many appointment: 5% after a patient misses 2 appointments; 37% after 3 misses; and 26% only after 4 or more misses.

Some dentists said they will never ‘fire’ a patient (5%), and 27% said it rarely, if ever, happens.

Chart: Do dentists 'fire' patients who miss appointments?

“Try to dismiss patient after 2 no-shows, but the situation can vary depending on the particular relationship of the patient with the practice.” Canadian dentist

“I’d really love to find something that works– While most of our patients come regularly, it seems that in the past years, it is more challenging to keep patients compliant with appointments. If we charge, we just get patients mad and they leave with the charge on the books.” California dentist

“Although I don’t charge or fire patients for missed appointments it seems to be a repeating problem and I lose a lot of potential income; and the time can never be recouped.” Texas pediatric dentist

Here are a few dental management policy recommendations that are working:

“We try to figure out what’s getting in the way of their keeping [appointments], and if problems continue, we either put them on a “quick call” list, have them financially guarantee a reserved appt, or dismiss them.” New Hampshire dentist

“It is difficult to collect missed appointment fees. We just give them 3 chances and then will not make another appointment unless there is one available the day they call. If they miss one of those, they are fired for good.” Texas dentist

“If you charge them, they will walk rather than pay. So for unreliable patients, demand a “deposit” before putting them on the books. Tell them they will forfeit it if they miss, and have to pay another deposit. I have never had a patient miss an appointment when they had a $75 deposit on the line.” Georgia general dentist

“A missed appointment cannot be rescheduled within 2 weeks of the rescheduling call. This serves as a reminder that missing an appointment does affect other people besides the patient, allows time to schedule other patients in more convenient time slots and serves as a minor ‘penalty’ for missed appointments. If a patient misses 2-3 appointments, they are not permitted to schedule further than 1 day in advance to limit the amount of forgetting appointments. Patients missing further appointments are dismissed from the practice at the doctor’s discretion.” Indiana dentist

“We charge the people that we want to leave the practice.” Minnesota dentist

What’s your dental practice management policy for patients who miss appointments?

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