by Scott Zimmerman
TeleVox recently surveyed 100 U.S. dental and orthodontic practices about how they manage their past due accounts, and uncovered the following trends. A summary of the findings is below. I encourage you to review the statistics and share your best practices for handling delinquent accounts:
When do practices contact their past due accounts?
Once a patient account becomes past due (more than 30 days overdue):
- 67% mail an invoice.
- 67% call the patient with a payment reminder.
As that account moves into the 60- to 90-day delinquency range:
- Only 71% of practices reach out by phone during this stage.
- 30% of practices do not proactively reach out to patients about their account balances before the 90-day threshold.
- Nearly 44% of practices said they ask patients to make payment during their next visit.
Collection agencies are not the answer
Only 45% of the practices that turn to a collection agency to recover outstanding debt claim to be “100% satisfied” with that agency and its results.
Practices that have partnered with a collections agency collect 33% of their outstanding debt on average. However, that figure comes before subtracting the high fees these agencies charge (sometimes ranging as high as 50%), which often decreases that percentage considerably.
There’s room for improvement
Were survey respondents pleased with their collections practices overall?
68% feel there’s room for improvement. The most frequent reason for this response was the desire to contact accounts earlier in the delinquency cycle. Lack of time and staff resources was a big influence on these responses.
For other practices, resolving accounts early in delinquency hasn’t been a priority.
Though collections agencies can be a valuable resource later in delinquency, clearly there is a need to reach out to newly delinquent accounts (30 to 60 days) with friendly reminders to make payment — a process that an automated solution can handle in a timely manner with low cost and a consistent message tone. Accounts at this early stage are more likely to have simply forgotten payment and can be driven to action with only a brief reminder.
The impact of an automated solution
Among the practices surveyed, the average account balance for a patient is approximately $400.
The surveyed practices serve an average of 2,000 active patient accounts each. Survey respondents reported that 10% of their accounts are overdue by at least 30 days.
Given these figures, there is an opportunity for a practice to collect up to $80,000 through early collections efforts. How do you handle your delinquent accounts?
Originally published in Dentistry IQ, July 20, 2010