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How to Start the Conversation about Dental Patient Financial Responsibility

Talking with a patient about payment and the cost of a procedure probably isn't the most fun part of your job. Here are some tips on how to make the conversation smooth.

Dental Intelligence


August 30, 2023

Talking about money can be awkward, but beginning the conversation about finances with patients before performing a procedure is critical. No one likes a surprise bill, and if you put off having a money conversation for too long, you’re more likely to face a mounting collection of accounts receivable.

In this article, we’ll share non-awkward ways to discuss finances and helpful tips to collect a bill when a patient disputes it. 

Why Discussing Patient Financial Responsibility is Important and How to Do It Right

There are three reasons you should be discussing finances early on with your patients:

  1. Manage expectations. Patients should know what they’re getting into before a procedure.
  1. Increase collections. When patients are informed about the cost of treatment, they’re less likely to dispute it.
  1. Improve the patient experience. Getting the money talk out of the way allows the patient to focus on the treatment.

So, how do you start the conversation? There are three points in the patient journey that can open the door.

1. Your Website

Most patients will visit your website before visiting your office, so this is an ideal time to set expectations about dental payments early.

Include a page on your website that outlines insurance options, payment plans, and patient financial responsibility. If you do offer payment plans, provide links to apply. This sets the tone upfront, answers common questions, and provides patients with the accurate impression that you prioritize affordable care and will work with your patients to ensure they receive it.

2. The First Visit

From the first visit, be sure to discuss finances and what the patient is responsible for paying. At the introductory appointment, provide patient intake forms and folders that include financial leaflets.

Further, it helps to prioritize staff training so that your entire team is well-versed in all of your payment options and fee structures.

When your staff is fully trained in financing options, insurance co-pays, and everything else that affects out-of-pocket expenses, they’ll be able to communicate the cost of care confidently and in a way that helps a patient feel at ease.

3. Pre-Appointment Reminders

There’s usually a gap between the day a patient agrees to treatment and the day of a procedure. Like you, your patients have a lot of things on their minds, and they might not recall how much the procedure costs. It can be helpful to send an appointment reminder a few days before the appointment with information about how to prepare for the procedure and the costs involved.

At the conclusion of the email, invite the patient to call your office to discuss any questions or concerns.

Tips for Handling Patients with Billing Issues

The most common billing issues a dental practice faces are patients who dispute the cost of their received services or patients who cannot (or will not) pay their bill.

Situations where a patient fails to pay are not easy, and we’ve discovered the following tactics that can help smooth things over and ensure your office is paid:

  1. Listen empathetically and remind the patient of your policies. Money issues are tricky and can lead to charged emotions. A lot of times, your patient just needs to be heard. While you’re nobody’s punching bag, if you let the person vent for a few minutes, they’ll often run out of steam, and you can resume the conversation in a calm and rational manner.
  1. Offer payment plans. If you don’t already have payment plans and financing options available, now is a great time to consider adding one. These options lessen the burden of paying for high-ticket dental procedures and encourage paying in full for treatment.
  1. Make it convenient to submit payments. We’re all busy, and sometimes paying a dental bill is another item on the to-do list that never gets checked off. If you can find ways to make it easier to pay the bill for your services, you might find that you get better compliance. Consider text-to-pay options and online payment portals on your website.

Dental Intelligence Helps Practices Collect More

Another way dental practices can increase collections is to require an upfront payment. In addition to collecting funds in advance, upfront payments help reduce no-shows because the treatment has already been paid for. It can also provide patients with peace of mind because they’ve paid in full and don’t have an impending bill taking up mental space.

To learn more about how Dental Intelligence can take your collections to the next level, schedule a demo today.

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