Make Billing Statements Easier for Patients to Understand

Make these two changes to make the info on statements clearer for patients and save time on billing statement calls.

Updated 5/26/20

In an ideal world, patients would pay their full balance at the time of service and insurance carriers would pay exactly what they are expected to pay. The reality is that patients will often end up with a balance on their account from unpaid patient portions or lower-than-expected insurance payments. One of the easiest ways to notify patients about their balance is by sending them a billing statement.

Most offices have experienced and even come to expect the flood of calls that come after patients start receiving billing statements. These calls can be frustrating and time consuming for your patients and your staff members when patients don’t understand what they are being billed for and staff members don’t have the billing statement in front of them and can’t see what the patients are seeing.

Billing statements are a necessity, so why not do what you can to provide enough information for your patients and staff members in the first place rather than just planning on being frustrated? Do what you can to make the statements easy for patients to understand, and set up Dentrix to provide staff members with a copy of each patient’s statement.

The Problem

Patients don’t understand the information listed on their statements. They don’t know where the balance is coming from because there isn’t enough detail on the statement, so they call your office and ask you specific questions about the line items–or lack thereof–they are seeing on the statement.

The problem is compounded when you don’t have a copy of the patient’s statement and have to imagine what they are seeing, so it is hard to answer their questions. You and your patients are frustrated by the inefficiency in the communication, and you are spending too much time on the phone answering billing statement questions.

The Solution

There are two things you can do to solve this problem: make the statement easier to understand and/ or provide staff members with a copy of each patient’s billing statement.

Customize your billing statements so that they are easier for patients to understand in the first place. Are you providing patients with enough information to understand what the bill is for and when they received the treatment? When you create billing statements, you can move the balance forward date on the statement back a few months so that patients can see the itemized list of procedures and payments and will have fewer questions about where the balance is coming from. And you can add a custom statement message for each patient to communicate special information about their account.

Automatically add a copy of patients’ billing statements to the Document Center. When a patient calls with a statement question, you can open that patient’s Document Center and pull up the same statement the patient is looking at. You’ll be able to answer patient billing questions more easily and efficiently, which will cut down on frustration and miscommunication.

Step 1: Generate Statements that are Easier for Patients to Understand

It can be hard for patients to understand the information listed on their billing statements, particularly when the balance is over 30 days old or when there are multiple patients and procedures listed on the statement. There are three Dentrix features you can use to make billing statements clearer and easier for patients to understand, which will cut down on the number of billing statement calls you receive from patients.

The first thing you can do to make statements easier to understand is to change the balance forward date on the statement. The balance forward date determines which procedures will be itemized on the statement. Procedures or transactions that are newer than the balance forward date will be itemized and listed on the statement, and procedures or transactions that are older than the balance forward date will be grouped together into one line item labeled “balance forward.”

To change the balance forward date, from the Office Manager click Reports > Billing and edit the date in the Balance Forward Date field. By default, the balance forward date defaults to one month ago, but you could move that date back 60 or 90 days. That way, if patients have a balance that is over one month old, patients will still be able to see the itemized list of procedures and transactions and will know what they are paying for.

(Note that moving the date too far back in time may result in the patient seeing a lot of old information, which will then generate more questions. Experiment with this date to see what works best for your practice.)

You can also make statements easier to understand by adding a custom message on statements. In the Billing Statements dialog box you can add a statement message that will print on the bottom of all the billing statements for all patients. But in cases where you have spoken with patients about their balances or made special arrangements with them, you can also add a custom statement message for individual guarantors.

To add a custom statement message for a specific guarantor, from the Ledger click the Guarantor Notes button. In the Billing Statement Note section, type the note specifically for that guarantor. The note will print on that guarantor’s statements until the date you set in that dialog box.

Step 2: Enable the Option to Copy Billing Statements to the Document Center

Once you have made the statements easier for patients to understand, you can set Dentrix up to automatically add a copy of the billing statements to the Document Center so that you can look at the same statement the patient is looking at when they call with questions. You only need to enable this setting once, and then every time you print billing statements or send them electronically with eClaims the statements will be copied automatically.

To enable this option, from the Office Manager, click Maintenance > Practice Setup > Preferences, and then click the Print Options tab. Check the Copy Billing Statement to Document Center option, and click OK.

Note: In order for a copy of the statement to be saved in the Document Center, you must either print the statement or send it electronically. Simply generating a statement and storing or previewing it in the Batch Processor will not send a copy of the statement to the Document Center.

Step 3: View the billing statement in the patient’s Document Center

When Dentrix automatically copies billing statements into the Document Center, the statements are filed under the appropriate guarantor in the Billing Statements category. The statements are labeled within that category with the date they were printed or sent electronically.

To view the billing statements in the Document Center, select the patient whose billing statements you want to view, expand the Billing Statements category by clicking the + next to the category name, and select the statement you want to view based on the statement date listed.

You want to be able to view the statements in the Document Center large enough that you can read the information printed on them. There are a few tricks you can follow to enlarge the statement preview in the Document Center and make them the size you need them to be in order to communicate with your patients about the statements.

With the document selected, click X to close the thumbnail preview and click the < to close the thumbnail toolbar and view the full document. This will give more space on the screen for you to view the statement.

To zoom in on the billing statement, press both the Ctrl key and the + key on the keyboard. To zoom out, press both the Ctrl key and the – key on the keyboard. You can also see more of the statement by clicking the << button on the thumbnails pane and minimizing the thumbnail view.


Next Steps

Use the following checklist to help you implement ideas from this article in your practice.

  • Decide how far back to set the balance forward date on statements, and then train the staff members who create billing statements to adjust that date every time they generate billing statements.
  • Instead of handwriting notes or using stickers on statements, enter digital notes that will print on statements. Enter notes that apply to all patients in the Statement Message field in the Billing Statements dialog box, and enter notes that apply to a specific family in the Billing Statement Notes field in the Guarantor Notes dialog box. Make entering billing statement notes a part of your regular billing statement process.
  • Look at the other billing statement options available in the Billing Statements dialog box. Make note of which options you want to use consistently. Set up those options, then save them as default.
  • Enable the option to copy billing statements to the Document Center. Train your front desk staff to open the Document Center and refer to the copy of the statement when patients call with billing statement questions.
  • During your next team meeting, teach your team how to work with the zoom settings in the Document Center and view billing statements on the screen.

Learn More

Discover how to improve your billing processes even more with QuickBill at https://www.dentrix.com/products/eservices/quickbill.

For more tips like the ones in this article and to get in-depth training, attend a Dentrix workshop. Visit www.Dentrix.com/workshops for more information about workshops, including the full course list, course descriptions, and schedule.


By Erin Brisk, Senior Editor

Originally published in Dentrix Magazine, Winter 2016