How to Ask Dental Patients for Money, and Get It!

How many times have you purchased goods or utilized services that you didn’t expect to pay for?? I don’t know about you, but for me, that number is pretty much zero.

I think we can all agree, goods and services, especially those of value, cost money.

So why do dental professionals, and their teams, have such an issue asking for payments from patients for the valuable services they provide?

For some reason, paying for the services that are received, and even more so paying for them on the day they are received is an idea that has permeated every business and industry except dentistry.

As a dentist and a healthcare provider, you signed up to provide excellent care to your patients, yet the “health” of the practice can not be lost in this transaction. In order to provide quality patient care, to afford the team you need, to purchase equipment and PPE, patients must say yes to both the care and the financing that goes along with it. The practice must collect for the services that are provided.

But I’m not telling you anything that you don’t already know, right? You might consistently talk to your team about collecting money. Your practice might historically have a decent collection percentage, and you’re not too worried.

Even if that is true historically, things can change.

According to the US Bureau of Economics, personal spending rates plummeted in the US by nearly 14 % in April. While we have seen close to an 8% rebound, spending rates are still not back to where they were, and likely will not be for some time. 

Many dental practices historically see a dip in production in the month of September, or as many of us call it “Sucktember!”  Are you prepared for this? Is your team trained on how to truly ask for money, and present the financial options that will keep patients in the chair and money in the bank?

Try this on for size.

After the Great Recession of 2008 and  2009, dental practices saw a huge boost in patients requesting, and using outside financing. This trend helped many offices rebound from a dramatic drop in case acceptance and collections.  Increased financial austerity, and decreased spending in a post COVID environment will likely result in the same trend. Don’t be behind the curve on this one. 

Get your team trained and confident in both asking for money, and presenting outside financing options to your patients today.

Here are three simple steps to discuss with your team today to be ahead of the trend.

  • Always assume 100% payment is 100% possible.

Financial conversations should all work with the goal of obtaining full payment (or the full patient portion if there is insurance) in a single payment at or before the time of service. Don’t automatically assume that a patient can not make payment in full (we all know what assumptions do).

  • Don’t be a bank.

What is the highest and best use of time for your team? Do you want them to be chasing down patients to get credit cards and payments for services performed months ago, or should they be diligently following up with patients to keep the current schedule full and productive? This is where outside financing comes in. Find an option that is a good fit. Most companies will offer a significant amount of training for the team. This is a great resource that you can take advantage of to get this new option up and running quickly and smoothly.

  • Understand that language matters!

Don’t ever ask a patient if they would like to pay. Of course, they don’t like to pay. Ask them instead how they will be taking care of their full investment portion for the visit. This small change in language will not only help the team to collect more than they have in the past, but it also builds value for the treatment that you are providing by referring to the patient’s portion in the terms of “an investment” into their health. 

Enacting these three steps can make a big impact, all while keeping you caring for your patients, and the health of your practice.

 

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