Part III of this series finalizes our review of a major area that with consistent management can produce a credit balance management program that is a WIN/WIN for the practice and the patient. It is far more valuable to turn a patient credit into an appointment than to send a check – no debate!
The success of a credit balance management program hinges on originating and receiving consistent oversight from the ‘top’ – the owner doctor. To start, the doctor and practice administrator / manager need to meet to establish “written” goals in support of this program, including a consistent documented message to share with all team members. The following steps will help you establish a credit balance management program for your practice:
- The doctor and administrator review the A/R report and separate Credit Balance report. Reports should be presented with largest to smallest balances to make it easy to manage and use in meeting goals. (Note: Refer to Part II of this series for details on the importance of separate A/R and Credit Balance reports.)
- Review patient(s) with the largest credit balance. Ask yourself questions like:
- Is this an active patient?
- Are the patient’s family member(s) active?
- What is the Patient A/R balance?
- What are the Patient financial arrangements?
- Are they an ideal patient? Do we want them in the practice? Do they fit with the direction of the practice?
- Do they have a treatment plan less than 2 years old? What procedures were recommended?
- What prior procedures have been completed on the patient?
- Does the patient or a family member have a special occasion coming up that would benefit from an improved smile, etc.?
- Does the patient have an existing appointment?
- Peel back each patient and establish an action plan that will produce a win/win!
- Develop verbal skills needed to address each scheduling/production opportunity. Think “outside the box” as to the patient’s goals and determine the value you can bring that will motivate him / her to schedule. A different narrative may be required for each patient, i.e., upcoming birthday, cruise, wedding, sedation, etc.
- It may be necessary to consider a reduced fee or free hygiene appointment based on the size of the credit.
- Once these important questions are answered, you’re ready to develop a strategy for each patient. Here are some different scenarios you can consider:Scenario 1: The doctor(s) could contact patients with a close relationship and/or procedure objectives. If the patient agrees, they’re handed off to the front desk for scheduling.Scenario 2: Make every effort to at least generate a recare appointment for the hygienist and doctor to personally review with the patient. This can work well because patients find it hard to tell the doctor ‘no’.Scenario 3: Small credits, less than fifty dollars can have real impact on recare scheduling with the right verbal skills and assistance from the hygienist.
- Work balances two years or less, that have a treatment plan, and is an active patient or family member of a good patient you want to retain (such as a sedation patient). Consider: ‘Is it a good business decision to invest further in the patient with chair time to motivate them to come in?’
- If you have a lot of patients with credit balances, there are several ways to break up the work. For example: Starting with the largest credit balances, divide the report at the cost of a crown and up and assign those to the practice administrator. Below the cost of a crown to $500.00 can be assigned to one of the front desk team. Below $500.00 to a number agreed to with the doctor is the responsibility of the other front desk team member(s).
- Experience has proven that narrative training for all team members and oversight is needed to implement and manage credits to insure benefit of the practice and patients.
- The doctor and administrator should meet at least twice monthly to measure progress. This makes a great morning huddle topic, especially when offering congratulations for a successful reactivation.
- Obviously, not every credit balance patient will be retained and a check may be required. However, there is another alternative worth consideration. If it is legal in your state, send a practice-specific gift card pre-loaded with the credit balance that can be used only in the practice by whoever presents the card. This can generate new patients. You can find this type of gift card on-line.
- Credits older than one year may have to be returned if they do not generate an appointment. Refer to Part I of this series for details.
- Oversight and owning doctor commitment is mandatory for success. Results are document on the schedule, production, reactivation, etc. WIN/WIN harvesting of low hanging fruit- no debate!
It’s easy to see why many practices consistently overlook credit balances due to the fast pace of dentistry. However, it’s in your best interest to manage credit balances due to:
- Increased due diligence by lending entities and purchasers
- Merging of practices
- Credits owed to patients upon doctor’s retirement
- Corporate-owned dental practice growth
- Projected increase in the number of new dental college graduates
- Changing demographics of practices
Our hope is that this three-part series shows you not only the value of establishing a robust credit balance management program, but also the fine details of how to get started. For more information about how to create your program, call us for a free, no obligation 30-minute consultation at 210.241.6329.
We are currently developing more blogs about the Dental Weasel. Keep coming back to see what’s new. We also welcome any ideas you have for future articles. Thanks again for your continued and growing support.
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