There’s often a lot of fear and uncertainty around asking for money, and as a result, your practice’s health suffers. You need better financial arrangements if you want to improve your cash flow, so instead of letting the fear of asking patients for money take the wheel, seize control and follow these six steps!
1. Lay the Groundwork
Before you launch into making changes, it’s critical to take the time and ask yourself what your ideal financial arrangements should look like. Do you want to accept:
- All credit cards
- Third-party financing
- Payment plans
When you’ve answered those questions, dive deeper. If you’re going to accept third-party financing, for example, when does it make sense to use it? There’s going to be a fee if you go with outside financing, but it’s much more difficult to collect money over several months yourself, which is why I like using CareCredit. Furthermore, what types of discounts are you going to give? I see so many dentists that love to give discounts, but it’s important to set guidelines around them, or else the discounts will get out of control. Really start thinking about:
- Why would you give a discount?
- Who is it okay to give a discount to?
- What amount should the discount be?
It’s so important to think about these questions because they’re going to have an incredible impact on your financial health.
2. Overcome Your Limiting Beliefs
Dentists have a huge limiting belief when it comes to money, and it’s that they don’t want to talk about it, instead choosing to make assumptions about what the patient can pay or assuming the team will handle it without asking questions to make sure. Money’s not a bad thing to talk about, because you can’t give everything away for free. It’s like Kirk says: “Money is to your practice what oxygen is to your body. Without it, both die.” For the sake of yourself, your team, and the continued existence of your practice, you need to be paid. Trust me, your team wants that money, and they’re willing to talk to patients about it as long as you get over your limiting beliefs and give your team the support on how, when, and what to collect.
3. Invest in Your Team and Empower Them
Your admin team is the front line when it comes to collecting money, but unfortunately, there’s not a lot of great training out there for them. Courses are expensive and can be hard to find, so team members are unlikely to go out and search for them, which is why it’s up to us as teams and doctors to provide that for them. They don’t come with the experience, so you’ve got to invest in them beyond a simple “Hey—go answer the phone, collect money, and schedule.”
When you’ve invested in your team, you must also learn to trust them and take a hands-off approach to collecting. I’ve seen a lot of dentists that insist on being the ones to talk about money, but I personally believe dentists don’t know the ins and outs well enough to do so. They always know the initial dollar amount, but beyond that—when the patient starts having questions—they don’t have any answers. When you’re unable to answer their questions, the patient loses trust in you, so stick with what you’re good at and let your admin team do what they excel at.
In order to collect money effectively, your admin team must be top-notch communicators. Remember, overcommunication is a good thing when it comes to making sure your patients are paying your fee. Some of my favorite suggestions are:
- Educate your patients
- Work with them to find beneficial solutions
- Pause and give them time to process
- Remind them about upcoming payments
- Be persistent when it comes to declined payments
- Don’t be afraid to lighten the mood
The words we use make such a difference and sometimes it can be hard to know how to use language effectively. To combat this, ACT created the free Say This, Not That tool that will help you avoid common communication mistakes while adding effective phrases and words to your practice’s vocabulary. For additional help, check out the free Mastering Verbal Skills Webinar from Lead Practice Coach Jenni Poulos!
5. Avoid Wallet Biopsies
Making assumptions about what a patient can or cannot pay is a practice that I see frequently, but it’s one you need to leave behind. You’ve got to go in with the mindset that everyone has the money until they tell you they don’t. Even then, it doesn’t necessarily mean they don’t have it, just that they don’t have it right now. Maybe they can’t pay today, but you don’t know what their situation will be in a month. This is when you can go to your financial arrangements and see what you can offer them because if they value the treatment, they’ll find a way to pay for it.
6. Get Your Agreements in Writing
One of the most important pieces of advice around financial agreements is to get everything written down. Like Kirk says, “If it’s not in writing, it doesn’t exist,” which makes it incredibly difficult for your team to collect. Whenever there’s a disagreement with a patient about an agreement, you need something to back you up and prove that you showed them the investment and they agreed to it. It’s incredibly easy to collect when you can pull out a treatment estimate and point to their signature—they can’t argue with that. It’s about more than just protecting yourself, though—it’s about making sure there’s informed consent from the patient. Everyone can make their own threshold about when to get written agreements and my recommendation is to always have a written agreement for anything outside of a hygiene appointment that’s covered 100% by insurance.
When you follow these steps, you’ll find that there’s no reason to be afraid of collecting money. What’s more, your practice’s finances will be exponentially better, which leads to a happier and healthier practice. It’s never a bad thing to ask for help, so reach out today and let the ACT team guide you into improving your practice’s financials and helping you build a Better Practice and a Better Life!
Ariel Juday is a Lead Practice Coach at ACT Dental