Informing Dental Patients about the Costs of Extra Treatment

The effective management of accounts receivable involves more than staying on top of past-due patients; it also includes troubleshooting situations that occur in the back. Eliminating missteps with the clinical team requires clear communication.

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The most common challenge occurs when the well-meaning dentist and clinical team suggest to patients that they have additional treatment while in the chair.  It makes complete sense to treat a nearby tooth during the same visit you treat what is already scheduled since you save the patient valuable time.  When patients hear the recommendation, they often agree with it and the clinical team proceeds forward.

The problem is that patients often say “yes” without knowing the additional costs.  Patients do not learn about the costs until after treatment is rendered and the front team is discussing out-of-pocket costs for the visit.  In too many cases, all of the goodwill created during the visit is quickly eroded by sticker shock.  Patients are not prepared to pay or they are unable to pay for the extra treatment, and they leave unhappy despite receiving great dental care.

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How do you prevent this from happening?  Establish a protocol in your practice where additional treatment is not rendered without a signed financial agreement.  This means the clinical team needs to clearly communicate with the front team to ensure a prompt and accurate revised financial estimate before treatment is rendered.  The front team will typically come chair-side to step patients through the additional costs.  Patients are much more accepting of extra costs when it’s not a surprise.

Even though it’s an extra step, you strengthen patient relationships by explaining extra costs before rendering dental treatment.  You also greatly increase the likelihood of getting paid promptly.  This is why clear communication between the front and back is so critical for effective accounts receivable management.

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