"Help me help you!" I love that line in the film Jerry Maguire. It sums up the old truism that help comes after we help ourselves. This can be especially true when it comes to collecting from patients with past due accounts. By spending a little time gathering accurate information and “working” our past due accounts before we send them to a collections agency, we have seen dramatic increases in our ability to collect unpaid balances.
Helping Ourselves to Collect
Our collections routine starts with the Dentrix Collections Manager. To start the Collections Manager, open the Office Manager and click Analysis > Collections Manager. You’ll be prompted to select search criteria so that you can limit your list to only past due accounts.
Once we have the report open, we follow a quick process for accounts that are past due:
Send a statement. If we can see that the account is recently past due, we select the guarantor in the Collections Manager and then click Ledger. From the guarantor’s Ledger we can then click Process Billing Statement to send a statement to the patient right away.
Send a courtesy letter and make a phone call. From the Collections Manager, I can select the patient I want to contact and then click More Information to see a list of all the available phone numbers for the patient. Plus, I can click Add Journal Entry to record details about the conversation with the patient.
Send a second, more forceful letter and make a second phone call. We created our own collection letters and merge them using the Quick Letters feature in Dentrix. In addition to our standard courtesy letter, we have different letters we use when patients have stopped making payments, when they’ve only made a partial payment, etc. I really like how Dentrix automatically adds a note to the Office Journal indicating the letter name and the date it was created. That way, I have history of our correspondence.
Decide to either write off the balance (if it's less than $100) or send it to collections. For patients that continue to ignore us (and that have an account balance over $100), we send the account to a collections agency.
Helping Your Collections Agency Help You
After a recent performance review with our collections agents, I discovered how much we could help them help us.
At my request, the agency completed an Integrity Analysis Report that revealed some very interesting trends. The agency was only able to collect 12 percent on accounts where we provided them with a correct address but the phone number(s) were disconnected or wrong. However, if we provided them with a working phone number and a correct address, their collections jumped to 40 percent. Even more amazing, if we could also provide them with valid work and home phone numbers, the agency was able to collect about 75 percent of the balances owed.
Thanks to this review, our team now makes sure that we're sending every possible phone number and address we have available to the agency. Additionally, our staff tries to gather this information early on as part of our collections process.
Managing your past due balances is never fun, but by putting processes in place to standardize your collections operations, you’ll help yourself move to a higher collections percentage.
Jill Nesbitt is a dental consultant piloting a comprehensive dental staff training program in Nashville after managing a group practice with six dentists, 20 staff and 18 operatories for 16 years. Jill has an MBA and writes a weekly blog, www.dentalpracticecoaching.com. Jill is passionate about helping other office managers develop their careers and helping their dentists run successful businesses through her consulting practice.