Discover which accounts are overdue and collect on them before they become a problem.
Let’s face it—to have a successful practice you have to manage your accounts and be a good dentist. And sometimes, despite your best efforts, collecting on your accounts can be difficult. The trick is to increase your collection rate and reduce the number of accounts receivable that become bad debts. And the window for successfully collecting past due payments may be shorter than you realize.
Many business consultants agree that account balances should not extend beyond 30 days. Beyond that time, the likelihood of ever collecting these debts decreases every day. While you could pay a collection agency or an attorney who specializes in collections to manage your past-due accounts, many of your collection issues could be resolved simply by contacting your patients early on concerning their account balances–before they become a problem.
To help you follow up on past-due accounts, the Dentrix Collections Manager allows you to generate a list of accounts based on the criteria you specify and set priorities to determine which accounts to contact first. These criteria can include account balances, number of payments missed (if the patient has a payment agreement), account aging, insurance claim aging, minimum balance, and last payment date. The Collections Manager then generates a list of guarantors for you to contact.
Through the Collections Manager, you have access to all of a patient’s account information and the Dentrix tools that you need to manage your accounts receivable, including letter merge, guarantor notes, billing statements, and the Office Journal.
Using the Collections Manager, you can contact your patients by e-mail, mail, or phone. Each time you try to contact a patient you can enter notes about your contact attempt in the Office Journal. You can also enter guarantor or billing statement notes to remind your patient of the terms of any agreements you may have reached. You can even set up a payment agreement with your patients and set terms, such as finance charges, interest rates, late charges, grace periods, and payment intervals that are mutually agreeable. With a minimum of effort on your part, you can help your patients pay their overdue balances.
Setting Up a View
Before you can generate the Collections Manager Report, you need to determine what information to include in your view. Once you have set up a view, you can sort the Collections Manager list according to the columns you choose to display and filter your accounts according to the criteria you determine is most important.
From the Office Manager toolbar, click the Collections Manager button.
The Collections Manager View dialog box appears.
Specify a range of guarantors that you want to include in the list. The default is to list all guarantors, but if you have a large number of patients, you may want to restrict the list to make it more manageable. For example, you could create a list consisting of all guarantors with last names beginning with the letters A through J. Later, you could list only the K through S guarantors and finally T through Z for the last group.
However, even these lists could be large, so the Collections Manager allows you to narrow the criteria even further by restricting the billing types you want to include. For example, rather than using the default setting and listing all billing types, you could clear the default and list only “Bad Debt — to collections” accounts. If that’s too restrictive, simply press the CTRL key and select up to 10 billing types to include in your list. You can also customize these billing types to meet your particular needs. Many offices use customized billing types, such as Ortho or Medicaid, to focus their collection efforts on those who actually owe a balance.
If your list is still too unwieldy, you can restrict the list by provider or minimum balance. Why spend your time on account balances that are less than $25.00? The amount you set is up to you. Remember to weigh the costs of collecting a debt against the amount of the debt. Why trip over a dollar to pick up a nickel?
You can also list only accounts from which you received a payment before a specified date, or you can skip accounts with pending insurance claims that have an estimated patient portion of less than $20.00 (or whatever amount you determine is appropriate). Other helpful options include the ability to filter your list by the number of payments missed or the number of days an account or an insurance claim is outstanding.
Once you have created a workable list, you can then choose how to contact these accounts. By clicking the Quick Letters, Send Message, or More Information buttons on the Collections Manager toolbar, you can contact your patients by letter, e-mail message, or have easy access to their phone number(s), respectively.
If you telephone your patients through the More Information dialog box, you can click the Add Journal Entry button to add a journal entry to the Office Journal, documenting the contact. If the amount owed is small and the account is not more than a few days late, consider making a phone call or sending an e-mail message. These contact methods are often quite effective, especially for long-time patients in otherwise good financial standing.
For larger amounts, or if the account is more than 30 days overdue, a letter generated through the Quick Letters feature is likely a better choice as a follow-up to previous attempts to contact your patient.
Using the Collections Manager doesn’t mean that collecting the money owed you will not be unpleasant at times. It also doesn’t guarantee that you will collect on all of your outstanding accounts. However, using the Collections Manager to your full advantage will help you stay on top of your accounts and will keep your revenue stream flowing.
By Gary Frazier, Contributing Editor
Originally published in Dentrix Magazine, Fall/Winter 2010