According to a recent TeleVox survey gauging whether past due accounts are perceived to be a “problem” for dentists, 44% confirmed this notion.
And it’s because there is so much revenue at stake. 76% of practices have average outstanding balances of over $100. 10% of respondents report more than $500 as their average outstanding balance. The survey results show that for 37% of practices, the average outstanding balance ranges between $100 and $250.
Survey Question: What is the average past due patient balance in your practice?
Is this acceptable?
It’s commonly thought among some dentistry professionals that past due debt is just an accepted way of doing business. The belief is that many dentists accept slow or lazy payers as just a “cost of doing business”. Other experts in the dental industry feel that practices are complacent when it comes to bad debt because of the fear that a patient will leave should they be offended by any type of communication regarding their non-payment. Most of the practices surveyed by TeleVox disagree. 77% of survey respondents say that outstanding debt is not a commonly held or accepted practice and that they actively ask for payment in a number of ways.
How do practices follow up?
Of practices surveyed by TeleVox, 78% say they call to ask patients for payments. If patients are unable to make full payment, the practice sets up a payment plan on past due accounts. In addition, 82% of practices report sending letters, postcards or other mailings to collect on aged receivables. The method for follow-up on the outstanding balance varies greatly among practices. Some report sending the patient to collections immediately if they do not pay. Others report sending a letter at 30 days past due. Some practices report contacting multiple times before a collections agency is called in to handle the past due account.
Survey Question: Do you call patients to remind them of past due balances?
Survey Question: Do you send letters/postcards to patients to remind them of past due balances?
Of the 22% of practices who choose not to contact a past due patient, lack of time among staff members and a level of discomfort making a one-on-one phone call that might be considered negative to the patient are the reasons most frequently given.