Providing a great patient financial experience is crucial to the success of your practice. A study by Patient Engagement HIT found that 90% of patients say provider loyalty relies on the billing experience. Increasingly, patients are expecting smooth billing and payment processes similar to what they experience in other service sectors. A poor experience not only impacts the ability to retain patients and collect revenue. It can ripple across your practice and impact the ability to gain new patients, maintain efficiency, and scale in the future.
Optimizing your practice’s approach to patient billing should be top of mind. Here are a few areas to focus on whether you are just getting started or looking to fine-tune your processes.
1. Check Eligibility
Determining patient insurance coverage before and at the time of service is perhaps the most important step! At each visit, ask the patient if there have been changes to insurance and contact information. Not only does accurate coverage information help prevent downstream revenue problems, but it also helps front office staff set patient payment responsibilities upfront.
2. Educate Patients
Many patients are confused by dental insurance. The fear of out-of-pocket costs may keep patients from even scheduling a routine checkup. Insured patients may not understand that most preventative care is fully or mostly covered by their plan. This is a great opportunity for you to not only help patients understand costs but also the direct correlation between preventative care and reduction in future dental costs. A multi-year study by Cigna showed that patients that did not receive preventative care experienced a 43% increase in annual dental costs. Conversely, patients that did receive preventative care saw their expenses decrease by 31% over the same time frame.
3. Communicate Clearly
Empower patients with clear billing and payment policies. Provide an easy-to-read payment policy that outlines expectations on payments including copays, methods of payment, and how you manage unpaid balances. Train front office staff to talk about payments face-to-face. Engaging upfront allows patients to take an active role in their care and the costs involved in their treatment plan. This strategy also helps build a trusting patient-provider relationship.
4. Offer Payment Options
Meet patients where they are! Patients want convenience. For some that might mean paper statements and paper checks but limiting your collection strategy to this one channel may reduce the chances of timely revenue recovery. Digital payment methods including credit and debit card payments, e-statements, and online portals are growing in preference. The key takeaway is to offer payment channels that are well-situated to your patient population.
Manual processes bog down revenue by adding weeks to the billing cycle, which creates staff frustration and a disjointed patient payment experience. The 2021 CAQH Index found that 84% of dental practices utilize electronic claims. For many dental offices, that’s where automation stops. Utilizing additional electronic transactions presents a significant opportunity to reduce administrative burden and cost, while also streamlining patient payments. For example, electronic attachments allow providers to attach X-rays, Perio charts, EOBs, and other documentation required for claim adjudication. With fail-safes built into the logic, an electronic attachment solution can reduce the chance of denials. There are many other areas that are ripe for automation in dental billing including eligibility, ERAs, claim status inquiry, patient statements, and more. By integrating automation into systems and workflows at every touchpoint, you create consistency in the patient payment experience from the moment an appointment is scheduled until the last payment is received.
6. Consolidate Technology
Fragmented technology and siloed systems can be a barrier to growth. If you have multiple facilities or are planning for future expansion, disparate billing systems can be challenging to manage and may create an inconsistent experience for patients. Consolidating to a single integrated platform streamlines the process for both patients and staff.
Complicated, ineffective billing processes have no place in the modern dental practice. The goal is to create a trusting relationship with patients by making it easy for them to understand their insurance coverage and payment responsibilities upfront. By simplifying the patient experience you may have a better chance of collecting in full and reducing your days in accounts receivable.
In addition to staff training, automation and technology can help create a patient-centric billing experience. DentalXChange offers streamlined integration into the Open Dental practice management system including eligibility, claims and attachment services, ERAs, merchant services, and patient statements. To learn more about DentalXChange services and pricing, visit DentalXChange or call 800.576.6412 Ext 455.
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