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Posted on July 20, 2010 by West Corporation 


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TeleVox™ Survey Uncovers Need for Improvements in Patient Collections

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


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