How to Boost Collections and Shorten Your Revenue Cycle [Video]

· 13 min read

We’re so excited to launch our Roadside Live series where we’re breaking down marketing and dental office management advice into short-and-sweet, lunch-and-learn-style events.

This week’s episode: How to boost collections and shorten your revenue cycle

Angela sat down with our Account Manager Bridget – former office manager and practice management coach – and discussed the crucial topic of collections and revenue cycle.

In just a quick 20 minutes, you’re going to learn:

  • How to train your team to confidently collect payment from patients.
  • 1 trick that’ll get 99% of patients to pay before beginning treatment.
  • Why you need to change the narrative about dental insurance and how to do that.
  • The 1 golden nugget to use within your billing policy (Psst… Every medical provider is already doing it).
  • Why hiring this one company will boost your collections exponentially.

Watch the video below and stay tuned for future Roadside Live events!

Angela: Hi, everybody. Welcome to Roadside Live. We are so excited that you’ve joined us. It’s our first of many live broadcasts where you’re going to get a tip of the week. So that you can put it into practice right away and see more success with it. I’m Angela. I’m part of the Roadside team, and I’m here with Bridget, who’s also part of our Roadside team.

And we are going to talk today about strategies to boost collections and shorten your revenue cycle. This is a topic many people are super concerned about, especially at the end of 2020. And then looking forward to 2021, how are we going to have a successful year?

Obviously, both of those things are huge topics on making a more profitable year. So I’ll just start with a quick introduction. For those of you who don’t know me, I’m Angela. I’m the Director of Client Services. I’m often the first point of contact when someone joins Roadside. I help keep your journey successful with us.

Bridget is one of our Account Managers, but she has a life prior to Roadside. So Bridget, tell us a little bit about your background before we stole you away and brought you to Roadside.

What did you do in the dental field?

Bridget: I started off as a dental assistant in some lucky office – well, I don’t know about lucky – but they trained me to be an assistant. But when I saw my first frenectomy, I almost passed out. And that’s when I decided, I was going to go to the admin part of things.

I still helped out in the back every once in a while. But, I ended up being a practice management coach and an office manager for many years. I’m still active in AADOM and those types of things. But I figured there’s even more out there to dental. So here I am in marketing, and I absolutely love it.

I couldn’t be happier. It’s much safer for me. No more passing out.

Angela: I love that. I also started as an assistant in the dental field, when I was very, very young. And within my first few months, I got to watch a gingival graft. And that was a little too much exposure to the dental field for someone who was brand new to the world.

The first few steps to that gingival graft, I was like, “Oh, no. I don’t know if this is for me.”

Thankfully, I got a little tougher stomach and I was able to endure 21 years in dental. But I’m with you; sometimes the newbies get a little green when they first see…

Bridget: Literally green.

Angela: Yeah! So let’s talk about the admin side that you moved on to, and this topic on boosting collections is shortening your revenue cycle.

So your revenue cycle, why do you like this topic? Why is it something that you care about? What is it? What inspires you about it?

Bridget: I think what inspires me is the fact that it’s so important.

This is the money coming into your practice. This is the bloodline to your practice. This is how bills are paid, how everyone gets a paycheck – a nice short revenue cycle. It means that you have money coming in regularly. You know when to expect it. And there’s less to collect later.

When I was a dental office manager, my whole goal was to avoid sending anybody to a collection agency. But then, this has a lot to do with coding and insurance. There’s a lot of different things that go into this and that’s why I like it so much. It’s one of the first things I would coach.

Angela: Definitely, getting a smooth money flow is such an important feature. If an office needed to revamp their financial and billing policies, where should they start?

Maybe they have a rusty system that’s kind of working, but it hasn’t been revisited for a few years, especially not during COVID.

Bridget: Throw away all your old stuff and start fresh. You know, maybe 2021 is a good goal to start fresh.

You want to have a written set of internal guidelines. And when I say internal, I mean that. These are guidelines for the office, not for the patient.

I used to write them for offices, and they were 3-4 pages long, but the patient only sees one page.

The misconception is that you have to outline every single policy to your patient. No, no, no, no, no, no. We want to be able to have the opportunity to explain a lot of these policies to the patient.

Don’t just have them sign off on a piece of paper. Cause they’re not really going to read it. Let’s face it.

They’re just going to put their signature on it as quickly as possible and move on. You want to sit down and go through and figure out all those situations that you’re going to run across and put it in an internal plan.

Angela: Perfect. So what I’m hearing is that Bridget volunteers to write pages and pages of guidelines for every single practice. Just email her.

She’s got nothing else on her plate, and she’ll be happy to write it

All joking aside, what would be included in the plan if they’re going to rewrite it?

Bridget: It’s everything. Every possible situation that could come up in your office regarding finances, even including missed appointments.

I want everyone to start their internal financial guidelines with the phrase, “Payment is due at the time services are rendered.”

Notice it doesn’t say, “When the patient is walking out the office door.”

That’s not when services are rendered. It says, “at the time,” so it can actually be before.

When the patient calls and gives you their insurance information, what is the policy for that? Are we calling the insurance in advance?

What is the policy for missed appointments? Are we going to stick to that? What do we say to the patients?

What do we do:

  • When the patient is walking out for treatment?
  • When the patient shows up for treatment?
  • When the patient calls for an emergency?

Every single situation relates to your revenue.

One of the tricks I used when I worked at the front office is when a patient would come in (and I knew what their co-pay was estimated to be) I would say, “Hey, you know what? When you leave the office, you’re going to be numb. You’re going to be drooling. You’re going to be droopy. You’re not going to want to stand around and talk to me about money. So I’m going to go ahead and collect your portion right now. Do you want to do cash or credit?”

And I would say that 99% of the time it worked, it was just fine because they were like, “Yeah, you’re right. I’m going to be disgusting. Let me get out of here.”

I’ll never forget one time when a patient came up to the front desk and she had some work done, her saliva had a little blood in it:

I hate to gross anybody out – but she licked her finger and started counting out the cash.

That’s when I knew I’m never doing that again

Anyways – it isn’t going to include every situation. It should be an evolving document. And then once you have it down, share it with the team and train on it.

Angela: That’s a good point. How important is the implementation of that? Sometimes we have policies and procedures and manuals that get put on a shelf, and nobody ever looks at it again.

When you were coaching, how often did you have them revisit their plan? How do you get them to remember it and keep the policies in front of mind?

Bridget: You must practice. Train your team on this so much so they are confident. Okay? They understand what they’re saying and why they’re saying it. The other thing is making eye contact. Practice making eye contact.

Practice saying, “Do you want to pay cash, check, or credit?”

You could say:

  • “How did you want it?”
  • “How did you want to take care of that today?”

You have to train. Put it together, and make everybody confident and understand it. And I think once you get everybody on the same page, then you’re in a much better situation.

That’s why having that internal document with those clear answers in it helps. That’s the big part of the implementation.

There’s no gray area. There’s A or B. Either this is going to happen or this is going to happen. This is what happens when this happens.

I think that’s very important.

Another thing that offices don’t realize they can do is collect a deposit. Get confident about collecting a deposit. You have every right to.

My hair salon does it. All the spas do it. Even other medical providers do it. I’ve had several telehealth appointments lately, and I have to pay my co-pay before I get on the phone.

There’s no reason why dental practices should be any different.

You can still have that balance of offering good customer service but being firm on your billing. No one is going to do a Google search for a dentist that has a good billing department.

They’re looking for an office where the doctor and team are friendly and the doctor does good work. And if you have that, you shouldn’t worry about collecting payment.

Angela: I’ve heard that sometimes in the dental field, team members get a little anxious about talking about money.

It should be natural to them because that is the reason that the dentist has a building. A revenue source.

Yes, they’re there to care for the health and the needs of the patients, but ultimately if the team needs a paycheck, they should understand that this is a business and collecting money is just part of it.

It’s not something that patients don’t expect. They know that they’re going to be paying for services.

How do you think the team can kind of restructure their thoughts on dental insurance?

Bridget: Yeah, I do think that we’ve got to change the narrative. We should be transparent with patients and say, “This is a benefit. It’s not like car insurance.”

I feel insurance is mislabeled. I always call it a “benefit” – your insurance benefits.

People come in and say, “Oh, I get two free cleanings.” Well, they’re not free. The patient is paying for them. There are not many plans out there where a patient doesn’t have to pay for.

It’s not like car insurance where you pay your deductible and everything is covered.

Being very transparent and making patients understand that we’re doing this to help them. We’re not doing it because we’re required to, but we’re doing this to help them and get them that benefit. Give it as much benefit as possible.

As far as motivating the team, you have to find out what motivates your team to collect more and be more confident.

Having good resources is a huge part of that.

I’m a huge fan of Charles Blair. He’s got an admin book … Opens in a new window to Charles Blair’s book… and a coding book … Opens in a new window to Charles Blair’s book… . You should have both.

Teresa Duncan wrote an amazing book on having insurance conversations … Opens in a new window to Teresa Duncan’s book… . I could sit here for hours with you and talk about how to have a good insurance conversation.

Those are must-haves. When you arm your team with that information, then you’re going to be much better off. They’re going to feel empowered, and that’s a big deal.

Angela: If you were brought into an office as a coach today – they hire you starting Monday morning – what’s the first thing you’d do to help them collect faster and more efficiently?

Bridget: I would start by getting those resources. I would also make sure you have a good merchant services company.

This is probably not the answer that you were going to expect to hear. I bet. Having a good merchant services company, especially right now, will make it easier for patients to pay.

How easy have we made it for patients to pay? Okay. So we’re confident we know that we need to collect that money. Are we going to be sending them a bill?

With COVID, some dental offices aren’t having an admin team member in the building right now. So are we just going to balance bill them?

No way! You shouldn’t be balanced billing them.

Text them a payment link that. There’s are companies out there where you can actually text the patient a payment link before their appointment, after their appointment, or the day before their appointment.

There’s a lot of ways you can do that. Emailing them, things like that.

How easy have we made it? And do we have the resources to help the team? Let’s talk about billing practices that will slow down your revenue cycle. If you don’t have the right insurance codes or you’re not using them properly, that’ll slow down your revenue cycle.

I see stuff on Facebook forums all the time. Some people are using codes that don’t exist anymore.

To answer your question more specifically, I would sit down and observe what I’m struggling with. Where do we need to start? And then get those resources, a good merchant services, those books. Start training, you know?

Angela: Just like anything, having our baseline and being honest about where we’re at. If we start a new fitness routine, we do have to step on the scale and take our measurements to know our baseline.

Even if we don’t like what that number is, but it’s our starting point to see success. That’s such an important point to have the office manager in that seat and pretend it’s their first day on the job and look at their practice with fresh eyes and say, “If this wasn’t on me to collect, what would I be doing differently? Where are our misses? What is it too difficult to collect payment? Are we using all of our tools? Do we need training?”

That revenue will make a difference in the bottom line and in the practice’s happiness and job security.

It’s such an important subject. So thank you, Bridget, for joining us today on Roadside Live.

We have lots of subjects we have planned, and they’re not all marketing subjects. We’re going to sprinkle in lots of different topics, including coaching, marketing, and bringing in guest speakers for 2021.

We really want to help our audience run their practices and be more successful. Be on the lookout for Roadside Live. Thank you so much for joining.

Bridget: Bye!

Roadside Live: Breaking down marketing in under 20 minutes

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