Simple, high-impact communication tips to boost your practice

By Lois Banta, DrBicuspid.com contributing writer

January 7, 2020 -- The most important aspect of communication today is not what you say to patients and insurance companies but how you say it.

How many times has an insurance company been contacted to track a past-due claim only to hear that you have to resubmit it? There is a definite connection between making the phone call and getting the results from the insurance company the first time.

Lois Banta
Lois Banta is the CEO, president, and founder of Banta Consulting.

One of the most effective tools in communicating with insurance companies and getting speedy payments is directly talking with the insurance customer service representative. You catch so many more flies with honey. In other words, make a friend at the insurance company. My suggestion is to call the insurance company with the following conversation in mind:

"Hello, this is Lois from Dr. XYZ's office. I'm calling to check the status on an outstanding dental claim."

Never say past due claim as it can put the insurance rep on the defense. Always write down the day's date, the insurance rep's full name, and any notes pertaining to the conversation. If the claim was sent electronically, be prepared to share the claim number from your electronic claim submission report. This verifies that the claim was, in fact, received by the insurance company.

Communicating with patients

Communication with your patients can be equally frustrating if they forget the financial guideline of your practice. The first thing every dental office needs is to have a financial guideline. The second thing is to put it in writing. Always -- and with no exceptions -- explain all treatment recommendations to your patients before dental treatment is performed.

There are many ways of discussing financial arrangements with patients because there are many types of treatment consultations. Here are some tips:

  • First, if the patient is in your office for an emergency -- and there is time to do the final restoration that day -- the financial coordinator should answer any questions the patient may have regarding fees and insurance so that the patient can make an informed decision.
  • Second, all financial arrangements should be made before the patient comes in for the next treatment appointment to avoid unfortunate surprises.
  • Third, if major treatment is needed, a formal consultation should be conducted privately for the patient and the financially responsible party (if different from the patient).

The importance of communication also comes into play for patients paying their "estimated portion" after the insurance payment at the end of their dental appointment. Inform the patient, "If insurance pays less than we estimate, we will send you a final statement and it will be highlighted in orange at the bottom of your statement with the phrase, 'We have received final payment from your insurance.' " This can prevent an angry phone call from the patient. Give your patients the potential "bad news" before they get the bad news. With that, you have just diffused a potentially angry situation.

Another effective communication technique is when the payment guidelines in the office have changed. I find this the most difficult transition for some patients because they were used to "making payments." Never be the "bank" for your patients.

To change the rules effectively, you need to be excited about the change. The conversation should go like this: "Mr. Jones, today's visit was $700. We estimate insurance will pay approximately $350, so we estimate you portion to be $350. How do you want to handle payment today? Will it be by cash, check, or credit card?" The patient usually responds by saying, "Just send me a statement like you usually do."

This is where the magic conversation must happen. You say, "Actually, we are so excited that our payment guidelines have changed recently and we are now prepared to handle your payment in office today! So which would you prefer? Cash, check, or credit card?"

If the patient still objects, give him or her a courtesy statement with a stamped envelope. Then instruct the patient to send you the estimated portion in the next five days. Say that you will follow up with a phone call if for any reason a payment is not received.

Lois Banta is the CEO, president, and founder of Banta Consulting, a company that specializes in all aspects of dental practice management. She also owns and is the CEO of The Speaking Consulting Network, has more than 40 years of dental experience, and consults and speaks across the U.S. She can be reached at lois@bantaconsulting.com.

The comments and observations expressed herein do not necessarily reflect the opinions of DrBicuspid.com, nor should they be construed as an endorsement or admonishment of any particular idea, vendor, or organization.


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