How To Improve Day-to-Day Functions for Better Dental RCM (Part 2)

December 28, 2023 | 3 min read

Are dental practice’s day-to-day functions dialed in to support effective dental revenue cycle management (RCM)? 

This two-part series shows you how to standardize essential RCM processes, track claims, provide staff training, and improve patient collection. (Missed part 1? Read it here.)

Define Processes For Handling Account Receivables (A/R)

“Establish processes for following up on patient A/R including collections practices and (if necessary) a contracted outsourced patient collections vendor.” ~ Revenue Cycle Management (RCM) Best Practices for Enhanced Dental Practice Performance white paper

Define roles and responsibilities for employees to handle initial follow-ups and escalated collections. Implement standardized patient communication protocols with a consistent method and frequency. Additionally, clearly explain payment terms, including acceptable payment methods and available payment plans.

You may automate this process with tab32’s patient communication feature, which integrates with our billing module to identify outstanding statements, reduce administrative burden, deliver a consistent experience, and ensure nothing falls through the cracks.

If appropriate, you may consider outsourcing to a reputable collections vendor. Document the criteria for engaging a collection agency and ensure all collection practices comply with relevant regulations, such as the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) and the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA).

Encourage Upfront Payment From Patients

“Train your front desk on RCM processes to collect deductibles, copays, and other patient responsibilities up front.” ~ Revenue Cycle Management (RCM) Best Practices for Enhanced Dental Practice Performance white paper

A robust eligibility verification process allows you to inform patients about copay or responsibility when they check-in for an appointment. Train your front-desk staff to explain insurance details, estimated costs, and payment expectations clearly and empathetically before treatment begins.

Establish a step-by-step process for front-desk employees to collect upfront payments on the spot — you’ll get paid faster and eliminate the administrative burden of following up on patient A/R. Train your staff to handle common scenarios and objections from patients. Also, accept different payment methods to make it easy for patients to pay you.

You may also implement a pre-pay option, allowing patients to take care of their financial responsibilities before their appointment. For example, add the option to your online scheduling tool and offer an incentive (e.g., a discount) for patients to pay upfront.

Go Digital With Patient Statements and Payments

“Implement and rollout electronic patient statements and an electronic payment system to streamline patient collections.” ~ Revenue Cycle Management (RCM) Best Practices for Enhanced Dental Practice Performance white paper

As consumers become accustomed to conducting business and making payments online, they expect their dental service providers to offer the same convenience. You can securely email or text patient statements through tab32’s patient communication module immediately after treatment to shorten your revenue cycle while reducing the costs and workloads of sending paper statements.

Additionally, set up an online payment system and encourage patients to pay electronically to streamline collection and increase accuracy. Allow patients to use various payment methods (e.g., ACH, credit or debit card, PayPal, etc.) to improve the user experience. Also, ensure your process is secure and HIPAA-compliant to protect your practice and enhance patient trust.

Manage Uncollectable Debts Efficiently

“Develop standard operating procedures (SOPs), with defined timelines to manage uncollectable debts and write-offs when necessary.” ~ Revenue Cycle Management (RCM) Best Practices for Enhanced Dental Practice Performance white paper

Document criteria for identifying debts deemed uncollectable, considering account age, patient communication history, the number of collection attempts, and other factors. Then, establish timelines and cadence for following up on overdue accounts and define procedures for escalating collection efforts if initial attempts are unsuccessful.

Implement processes for offering financial counseling and payment plans to patients facing difficulties. Include guidelines on assessing a patient's financial situation and tailor payment plans to meet their needs.

Define criteria for writing off debt as uncollectible based on exhausted collection efforts, patient communication history, legal restrictions, etc. Determine timelines and approval processes for handling write-offs. Also, use tab32’ robust billing module offers tracking and reporting functions to help you efficiently monitor overdue accounts' status.

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