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747: 3 Keys to Maximizing Collections – Ariel Juday

Take a handful of money and put it in the trash. Every time you don't collect, that's exactly what you're doing! If you want to keep more of what you earn, don't miss this episode! Kirk Behrendt brings back Ariel Juday, one of ACT’s amazing coaches, to share three keys that will raise your team’s confidence when collecting from your patients. To start collecting what you're worth, listen to Episode 747 of The Best Practices Show!

Learn More About Ariel:

Learn More About ACT Dental:

More Helpful Links for a Better Practice & a Better Life:

Episode Resources:

Main Takeaways:

  • Set a clearly defined financial policy.
  • Have a clearly defined billing process.
  • Align with your team on what collection means.
  • Understand the barriers your admin team faces.
  • Have countermeasures in place for difficult patients.
  • Train and develop your team’s communication skills.
  • Take time to practice collection techniques with your team.
  • Get rid of your limiting beliefs about patients who can't pay.
  • You should be collecting 100% or more. It’s what you deserve.


“Collections are what run the business. A lot of times, we think about production, and we need to produce — which is great. But if you're not collecting what you're producing, then in the end you have no cash flow.” (2:16—2:30) -Ariel

“Cash is to your practice what oxygen is to your body. Sometimes, we don't like to talk about it — but without it, both dies.” (2:35—2:42) -Kirk

“If we don't collect, it's the same as throwing money away or ripping up a check because you have actually done something already for free. So, we have to [collect]. A lot of times, a lot of our doctors will know, and they'll look at their overhead, and they want to manage their expenses. And a lot of the time, what we see is there's a gap. If we would have collected what we could have, our overhead would have instantly dropped and been within a healthy range because it's calculated off collections but generated off of our gross production.” (3:18—3:54) -Ariel

“You need to set expectations with yourself and really look at the data. Be honest with yourself about where you're at because [you're] feeling like, ‘We collect everything. We do a great job. My team does a great job. They're collecting,’ and they may or may not be. So, look at the data, see where you're at, then go from there.” (4:06—4:27) -Ariel

“Have a clearly defined financial policy. Your patients and your team members need to understand how they can pay in your office. So, when they're coming in for treatment, they're coming in for their hygiene appointment, they need to know, do I need to have a credit card? Can I use a check? Do I have outside financing? When is payment to be collected? If you ask me, I say day of service. Or at the time of scheduling, even better. But worst-case scenario, day of service. We're the only industry that likes to think that you can pay after the fact.” (4:28—5:04) -Ariel

“[Your team is] up there doing [their] best. [They] let [patients] know, ‘Okay, this is what today's investment is.’ And then, what do they do when the patient says no? That's the hard part. They're doing their best, most of the time, but a financial policy will give them the confidence to say, ‘Hey, these are our agreements. This is what the doctor wants. This is what we want,’ and patients know that ahead of time. So, it helps minimize those conversations of the patient saying, ‘No, I can't afford that today,’ or, ‘I didn't know I have to pay,’ because [your team can] say, ‘Oh. Well, actually, it looks like when you were in last week, I talked to you about this and we agreed that you were going to pay by credit card, and you signed this.’ Then, what do [they] say? So, now, [your team] turned it back on [the patient], and that's all because [they] had the confidence of having, ‘I know what my policy is.’ I have that confidence in setting up my payment arrangements ahead of time, and it takes it away from the patient to say no.” (5:30—6:32) -Ariel

“I'll go in naturally thinking, ‘Okay, I have to pay in full.’ And as soon as you give me that option to make a payment, I'm like, ‘Well, yeah. Why not?’ I don't have to pay all of it today, and I can go eat lunch, and go do a little shopping spree after. They talked me out of paying in full. So, you're right. It is confidence. If [your team is] standing firm, then as a patient, you're like, ‘Okay, I got it. This is what I'm going to do.’” (7:18—7:46) -Ariel

“The second process is having a defined billing process. There's a difference between having a financial policy and a billing process. A lot of times, it gets pooled in together. A financial policy is, I'm making agreements. I know ahead of time what I'm collecting and when I'm collecting. The billing process is after the fact because insurance is a factor. We do have to send it out. The claim gets paid and processed. And there is the occasion that a balance is remaining after treatment is completed. So, we have to know what that process is now, and I want to know that before the balance even happens because it goes back to having that team member have that confidence of, ‘Okay, if a balance does occur, what am I going to do instead of trying to figure it out in the moment?’” (8:33—9:23) -Ariel

“[Your admin team is] the gatekeeper. [They] know that [patients] owe money, and [they're] going to go ahead and collect that before they get to go back to their hygiene appointment or to their treatment appointment. Regardless of what the appointment is for, they're stopping to talk with the admin team member to pay that balance because we don't want to let them slip by. We don't want them to go back and say, ‘Yeah, I'll pay.’ ‘Okay.’ And then, doctors say, ‘Oh, let's go ahead and start this today.’ We add on to that balance, and now we're coming up to check out, and now I have to collect an even greater balance. So, it's like, ‘Nope. Stop with me. Let's make an agreement.’ If they're not willing to pay, then I want to know that ahead of time so that we can have an open and honest conversation of what's going to happen.” (10:34—11:24) -Ariel

“Would you rather do the treatment for free, or would [you rather] say, ‘Hey, we can't make this investment today. Let's make an agreement’? Maybe they get paid next Friday, or they know in two months we can schedule it. So, yes, you may lose a small portion of those appointments. But then, you would have been doing it for free anyways. So, to me, it's not a big deal because you would have actually lost even more money with seeing the patient — the cost of supplies and all of that — versus knowing. And they're not your friends if they owe you money and they're willing to continue owing you money. We get that all the time, ‘Oh, that's my friend.’ Friends don't owe friends money.” (11:51—12:37) -Ariel

“People that owe you money don't like you. Even if they live next door to you, or they're related to you — they don't like you if they owe you money. So, don't create a situation in which people owe you money.” (12:42—12:51) -Kirk

“We have to train our team members on communication techniques and how to overcome the barriers with patients. You said a lot of the treatment acceptance is in between the clinical and the financial conversation. We lose a lot of that acceptance with it just because team members don't know how to overcome barriers. It's like, as soon as we hear that trigger word of, ‘Oh, I can't afford that,’ I see a lot of team members shut down and say, ‘Oh, okay.’ And that may or may not be true. They may not be able to afford it today. They may be able to afford it next week. They may need to make payments. That's where then, okay, let's talk about it and know the difference. We're not trying to pressure patients into doing anything they can’t afford. But I want to know, how much is too much for them? Is it that they can't afford it, or they didn't see the value in it? Because that's two different scenarios.” (13:18—14:25) -Ariel

“If you don't have time to train [your team] on overcoming these barriers, then you're not wanting them to collect. If they can't overcome this barrier, they're not going to be comfortable collecting, especially for some of those patients that can be a little harsh. So, they have to learn how to stay strong, calm, and gentle — and that's hard when someone is coming at you saying, ‘I can't afford this. You're just trying to take my money. You don't understand.’ That's where we have to teach them like, ‘Hey, just breathe. Let's listen to them. Let's ask some open-ended questions and get there.’ But if you don't have time to practice that, it's not going to happen in the moment. It's not a skill you can just learn on the go.” (14:56—15:40) -Ariel

“There have been a lot of times that patients have said, ‘Oh, I can't afford this,’ or, ‘I can't do this.’ And it's like, okay, let's talk about this. Let's see what their true barriers are. And the reward is that that patient comes back thanking you because they were able to get treatment done when they couldn't see how it was possible.” (16:56—17:15) -Ariel

“Go back to the data and really look at, what is your collections percentage? Is it at 99% to 100% of your net production? If so, great. Now, look at your treatment acceptance numbers. Because you may still be collecting, but you may not even be hitting the potential. I think a lot of it comes from team members, doctors included — we have blind spots. We have personal beliefs, and we have blind spots. Whether we mean to or not, we're subconsciously placing those on patients. We have to overcome that. First, we have to know what our blind spots are. And that's obviously really hard to do because they’re called blind spots. But you have to know, what am I comfortable with? What am I not comfortable with? And sometimes, with doctors, they have this personal belief, and sometimes their admin team members can overcome that if the doctor just stayed out of it.” (17:40—18:37) -Ariel

“You have to take the time to practice this, to understand it, to align with your team. What do we believe about collections? What are our numbers? Go facts over feelings. It's not that anyone is doing anything wrong, but there are areas of opportunity that we could be better. And remember that if you're producing, the goal should be to collect 100% of that net production. Eliminate that gap, and you'll see a huge increase in the confidence of your team members. You'll be able to do more things. You'll see your overhead decrease. I don't want to say it's all about the cash. But if you're producing and the cash is flowing in, you're going to be happier. You're going to be able to serve more patients.” (19:46—20:34) -Ariel

“[Your net collections] should be 100%. If we're looking at net collections, you've already made the adjustments for insurance. You've already made those professional courtesies for your Aunt Sally. You've already done those, so it should be 100% because you're saying that this is what I produced, and this is the value of the dentistry that we provided. So, why would you not collect it? If you want to collect 96%, you can find a team member that will take that extra four percent. You're just throwing it out the window. Let's bring it into the team.” (20:49—21:27) -Ariel


0:00 Introduction.

2:08 Why maximizing collections is important.

3:58 Have a clearly defined financial policy.

8:22 Have a clearly defined billing process.

10:13 Your admin team are the gatekeepers.

11:25 Friends don't owe friends money.

13:14 Train your team on communication techniques.

14:26 Take time to train and develop team members.

17:16 Know your blind spots to overcome them.

19:41 Final takeaways.

20:34 What should your net collections percentage be?

Ariel Juday Bio:

Ariel has a master’s in healthcare administration and several years of dental experience in all aspects of the administrative roles within the dental office. Her passion is to work with dental teams to empower team members to realize their full potential in order to better serve patients, improve office systems to ensure a well-functioning team/office, and to help everyone have fun in the process!