After managing the global pandemic, practices face difficult conversations around payment collection in the current economic climate. Clearly communicating patients’ financial responsibility can help avoid unnecessary conflict while keeping your business afloat. In addition, enhanced patient education, payment alternatives, and empathy can contribute to a better experience and expedite payment.
Initially, a written financial policy should clearly outline expectations. This usually includes a statement about financial responsibility, timeframe for payment, interest rates applied for overdue balances, and payment options. Once a policy is established, coach the team on how to best present this information.
Verbiage + Communication Style
The entire team should be familiar with the practice’s financial policies and be prepared to best present information relative to their role in the practice. Clinical team members may field financial-related questions from patients and administrative team members. However, clinical team members should defer specific financial arrangements to administrative team members while directly answering general policies and options.
Start by reviewing the practice’s financial policies with your team. Then, during the treatment presentation process, a patient who asks about financial arrangements is generally ready to schedule treatment if their financial barriers are addressed.
Asking open-ended questions can better gauge how to help the patient overcome barriers to treatment. Active listening demonstrated by team members gains an understanding of the patient’s values and builds the trust needed to move forward with treatment.
Communicate the benefit to the patient for frequently performed treatment procedures within your practice. For example, the benefit of a more costly procedure such as a dental implant cannot be too clinical and should align with their values. Typically, a patient’s values can be divided among the categories of finances, function, or aesthetics.
Customize the discussion by understanding what specifically motivates your patient in front of you. This requires having a series of open-ended questions prepared ahead of time.
Offering Payment Options
Patients appreciate being able to select treatment within their budget when they have financing options. Your practice likely has guidelines around what will be acceptable for the business. Team members should be coached to present the benefit to the patient within these guidelines.
There may be a small discount for pre-payment or payment in full at the time of service. If more options are needed, options may include monthly payments, CareCredit, or, in the case of lab-fabricated treatment, half of the payment is due at the prep appointment and half at the seat appointment.
Positive Patient Experience
Coaching specific communication skills among your team members can enroll patients in the entire treatment acceptance process, including the financial portion. Team members can create a positive experience that enhances case acceptance, timely payments, and patient referrals.