When it comes to funding ortho (or other dental care), keep it simple

Fundraising in the office is becoming a thing of the past, as it should be. The thing is, it should never have been “a thing” in the first place. This philosophy of carrying forward balances was promulgated primarily by well-meaning, kind-hearted dentists who felt they were doing patients a favor by letting them make payments on services like orthodontics as a benevolent or humanitarian act. But is it really nice? Allowing patients to substitute balance financing for services they cannot afford creates all kinds of problems for the dentist-patient relationship, the staff, the dental practice and the patient.

Common Patient Behavior

When the patient does not meet his financial obligation, how does he deal with the situation? Typically, a patient who owes the practice money will react in one of three ways: avoid the practice, devalue the service, or criticize the work.


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Are your ortho patients missing appointments because they are behind on their monthly payments? It’s a manual avoidance.

“All he did was straighten my front teeth; I could have done it myself with Smile Direct for half the money! This patient is devalue the service.

How many patients leave the practice and are transferred to another practice with a history of abuse? It counts as vscriticize the dentist.

None of these situations is beneficial and can paralyze the dentist and the practice.

It has often been suggested that dentists slow down an orthodontic case until the account balance is paid. But is this a good strategy? Just “change donuts” until the bill is paid? Remember that every delay is a waste of time and it equals money. Every lost appointment could have been filled by postponed patients, waiting for that chair time, no more lost revenue. Is it ethical or even legal? It should be obvious that it is not humane, benevolent, or even intelligent to extend credit to people unable to take financial responsibility.

Keep payment options simple

All of this can be easily resolved by entering into firm financial arrangements before treatment is scheduled!

Following an orthodontic consultation, a treatment plan must be created. It must then be presented to the patient by the treatment or financial coordinator. A simple question can open the financial discussion. “Mrs. Berry, is there anything stopping you from scheduling the treatment that Dr. Williams recommended today?” The answer to this question will reveal the patient’s main concerns and obstacles. This will direct the financial coordinator towards the path necessary to solve any problem. There are basically three concerns that prevent a patient from starting treatment: time, pain and money. However, managing the cost of treatment is the most common problem that is confronted the treatment coordinator, therefore financial arrangements should be finalized before treatment is scheduled.

Financial options for patients should be kept simple: cash or check, credit card or third-party financing.

Certainly, the first option that the financial coordinator must present is the one that is most advantageous for the practice, that is, full payment in cash or by check at the start of treatment. Offering a 5% discount (presented as an accounting courtesy) can often entice the patient to choose this option. (A percentage greater than 5% has been shown to make little difference in patient choice and is not recommended.)

Records that are taken before the start of treatment, used for diagnostic purposes, must be paid for separately at the time of the appointment as the case may need to be referred to an orthodontist if the dentist finds the case too difficult to treat in one go. general practice. This makes the transfer of the case much easier for the accountant. Banding and bracketing appointment fees must then be collected in full when the appointment is scheduled or when the patient arrives for the appointment.

If the patient is unable to pay by cash or check, suggest that they use their credit card. Credit card companies can allow the patient to increase their line of credit with a simple phone call, if needed. This allows the patient to make payments on their own terms. The obvious downside is the transaction fees and high interest rates charged by credit cards.

The last and most popular option is third-party financing. CareCredit and Green Sky are excellent examples of third-party financial institutions. The third-party option guarantees full payment for treatment, eliminating collection tasks and overdue account issues that affect accounts receivable. Third-party financial companies allow the practice to select the specific programs offered to their patients. A 12 month 0% option is the most popular with patients. Offering 24 and 36 month plans that include interest will provide the patient with a less expensive monthly payment option. The fees charged by merchants for using these programs are well worth it!

Just say “no” to keeping accounts in-house

In conclusion, a dental practice that offers in-house financing will generally not perform a credit check before offering to carry a patient’s account. A bank, on the other hand, never lends money without a credit check, and if a customer’s credit rating is low, their loan application is denied. If a patient is unable to secure third-party funding, many dentists will offer to manage the account in-house. These patients will not pay! When a kind-hearted dentist makes this kind offer, a question must be asked immediately: “Are you prepared to pull out your checkbook and write a check in the patient’s name and expect the patient to reimburse you?” When it comes to financial policy, this is a great question to use in staff training. Would any of the staff be willing to write a check to the practice on behalf of a patient and expect the patient to reimburse it?

Finally, some practices are comfortable offering in-house financing options because they keep a credit card on file and bill it monthly or set up an ACH. Again, it’s lending money. Is a credit check in progress before offering this option? During the monthly execution of a card, problems arise, such as declined transactions, canceled cards or closed bank accounts. These issues create headaches for staff and are a financial drain on the firm. Just say no.

A firm practice policy of not having accounts for orthodontics or any other dental treatment protects and respects the patient and creates a healthy practice environment.

Michael J. Birnbaum