12 Steps to Collect Past Due Accounts

Collecting on past due accounts is a function that the Accounts Manager will find herself/himself having to do. Any contact with a patient/client, even under these circumstances, should be kept on a friendly, professional and dignified basis. This will promote respect for the office and its business practices.

Always remember the following points with regard to your patients/clients:

  • Most people have good intentions and want to cooperate with agreements that they have made.
  • Although a person’s account may be overdue, most people still have a good intention to take care of it.
  • Most people prioritize their bills and will first pay those that they feel are most pressing.
  • Most people with past due accounts will pay those bills where someone is actively requesting them to pay.

Bearing in mind the above, your role is to arrange to be one of the creditors that your patients/clients will not delay paying. The following points may be helpful in this regard:

  1. Bill promptly every month.
  2. Ensure that your bills are accurate.
  3. Ensure that you have the original signed financial agreement from your patient/client.
  4. Contact the patient/client as soon as you realize the account has become delinquent.
  5. When you speak with the patient/client, let them know that you believe that they are able to make payment.
  6. Let the patient/client know that you expect to be paid, and refresh their memory on the signed agreement.
  7. Allow the patient/client their self-respect; never back them into a corner, insult or badger the patient/client.
  8. Explain to the patient/client that you want to help him/her work it out so that they can maintain the agreement that they made with your office.
  9. Be prepared to offer some options to the patient/client that they may not have considered.
  10. Be willing to really communicate with the patient/client so that a true understanding and agreement can be reached.
  11. If absolutely necessary, utilize the credit reporting associations. Let the patient/client know that you are planning to do so and that this will go on their credit rating.
  12. As a last resort, utilize the services of a collection agency, and let the patient/client know that you plan to do so.

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How to Set Reminders for Continual Services (Recall)

Whether you are using an automatic reminder system, or it is someone’s job function to send out reminders; or a combination of both. The below information will be highly beneficial to increase your appointments scheduled, reactivating clients/patients and having them show up to their appointments.

In many offices recall can be one of the most overlooked aspects of a practice. Many offices are only utilizing about 30% of their recall poten­tial. This means that patients are not getting the care that they should, and a lot of business is slipping through the cracks of the practice.

One of the biggest problems encountered when you are trying to put in, or straighten out, a non-existent or inefficient recall system is that you may already have “trained” the patient or client that it’s not really all that important to come in for regular exams or other repeatable services. So, the first thing you have to do is let your patients/clients know how important these appointments are.

Patient/client education plays an important part in any successful recall system, whether you simply tell patients/clients or use pictures and other visual aids. The point is that you have to spend the time with your patients/clients. You might think that this is too much trou­ble to go through. But, just realize that the success of your recall system is related to the education of your pa­tients/clients and the use of the system itself.

You will always have people that will not “have the time” or “think it’s unnecessary” and will not participate in your recall program. But, most people, once they have been properly educat­ed and are programmed into the system to keep these appointments, will cooperate.

The System:

The following can be used for any type of follow-up or recall appointment:

  1. Have a supply of postcards made that the patient/client will fill out prior to leaving the office. You should also have appointment cards with spaces for appointment dates and times to be filled in.
  2. Before the person leaves the office, the receptionist should schedule them for their next appointment. They should always be scheduled for their next appointment, no matter how far away it is. (The prior education of the patient on the importance of regular exams is very important to this step going smoothly.)
  3. Put the person’s name in the appointment book and give them an appointment card with the date and time on it.
  4. Give the person a postcard and have them fill in their name and address on the card. Let them know that you’ll send the postcard out ahead of time to remind them of the appointment and that you’ll also give them a call. Having them par­ticipate in the making and scheduling of the appointment is highly effective, it creates a more solid agreement to keep the appointment.
  5. File the postcard in a file box that is divided into each week of the year. File the card in the weekly slot that is two weeks prior to the appointment.
  6. At the beginning of each week, pull out the cards for the appointments scheduled two weeks away and mail them.
  7. Using the recall confirmation dialogue, call the patients two to five days before their appointment to confirm the appointment.

You’ll find that because they filled out the card and received it in the mail, you’ll have a much easier time of confirming and keeping these appointments.

Other Tips on This System:

  1. To really get the person to comply, it is important to stress the importance of “continuing care” rather than the traditional “come and see us in 6 or 12 months” attitude.
  2. Watch the language you use too. Sometimes the word “recall” can have negative connotations. Patients may think of “defective” merchandise being recalled by manufacturers. Use “reexamination,” “reevaluation,” “regular visits,” or “regular appointments.”
  3. It is helpful to note the name of the person that the patient/client should call to make an appointment with (if appropriate) or indicate to the patient who will be calling them and when. This makes their appointment scheduling more personal.
  4. Reminder calls should be made when you are most likely to reach the person. Call after 5:00 p.m. on weekdays or on Saturday morning. Be very diligent about follow-up calls if you can’t reach the person. Make every attempt to reach the person by phone, and send letters if the phone calls are unsuccessful.
  5. Do not let patients fall between the cracks. Every patient should be in two places: in the appointment book with an ap­pointment and in the reminder system to be reminded at some time in the future of their appointment.

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The Underrated Business Card

Business cards don’t seem to be in vogue as of recently, however they are still a highly effective tool for getting your name out there. Everyone in the practice should be attentive to any and all opportunities to promote the practice. One of the easiest methods for doing so is handing out business cards. This is a successful tool and is also a commonly accepted practice in the business world.

Initially, each staff member could be given some of the doctor’s cards to distribute. Advise the staff to keep an ample supply of cards in their purse or wallet. Opportunities to hand them out will present themselves in a number of various situations. For example, when a person asks, “What line of work are you in?” The staff member (and doctor) could answer the question, say a little about the practice, and offer a business card or two.

One can take advantage of every day situations to hand them out, e.g., while at the grocery check-out counter and engaged in social conversation with the clerk, at the beauty salon, at the gas stations, the bank, etc. The list could go on and on. The idea is to keep a flow going all of the time. Many practices have been built and expanded in just this fashion.

As your budget allows, print business cards for each of the staff with their names and positions on them. This instills in each staff member a feeling of importance and professionalism. They will also experience a heightened sense of pride when handing out one of their own cards.

A staff meeting should be held during which the significance of new patients/clients is discussed. Impress upon the staff that as each person takes more initiative for building the practice, everyone will experience the increased benefits. Establish “games” for the staff wherein the staff who distributes the most cards and brings in the most new patients/clients is rewarded with cash or some other valuable prize.

The most successful method of using cards to attract new patients/clients to the practice (and to determine whose card they came in on) is to have an offer printed on the back of the business cards which extends to the recipient either a complimentary initial visit or a substantial discount on the first visit. The prospect should be informed to bring the card in with them to the first appointment. The receptionist could then record the name of the staff member as the referring source.

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Reactivating Patients: How to Get Them Back

If you were to calculate the value of each patient or client visit and multiply that by the number of patients or clients you have not seen for 6 months or more, you would begin to get the idea that you are losing significant amounts of income by allowing these patients to slip through the cracks. The reactivation of patients or clients who have discontinued care can be a major source of increased activity and income. Although they aren’t new patients or clients per se, the reactivation of these persons can produce a significant increase in activity for you. By simply concentrating on reactivating those persons who have visited you in the past, you can increase office visits and income notably.

People drop out of treatment for many reasons. It is possible that a person decided to discontinue care due to financial difficulties. By contacting them, you might find that their situation has improved, and they may be quite willing to re-establish their visits with you. It is also possible that a patient/client may have stopped coming for services because they didn’t have a full understanding of the importance of regular visits. This is a matter that could be cleared up through communication and education. Lastly, don’t rule out the idea that your former patient/client may be upset with your office, which again could simply be handled with communication. The important thing to be aware of is that communication, a caring attitude, and good follow-up can encourage people to come back to the practice.

Set aside some time to go through your inactive files and find those patients/clients whom you have not seen for at least six months. Look through the chart to determine what services they might be in need of. Compose a letter which addresses the specific service indicated.

Keep a log of letters sent out and, through the use of a reminder file, target a follow-up phone call to the client/patient within one week of sending out the letter.

When placing a phone call, make sure that you are specifically familiar with whom you are calling. Have it clearly in mind exactly what it is you are calling for. Keep a record of your phone calls which would include:

  • the date and time of the call,
  • whom you spoke with,
  • the reason for the call, and
  • the results of the call.

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Turn a 40 Hour Week Into 30 and Stay Profitable

Do you ever get to the end of the day and realize that you didn’t get half of the things done that you intended to get done?

Do you find yourself giving endless streams of orders and then having to spend time following up to make sure everything was really done?

Do you often have to redo work because it was not done correctly the first time by someone else?
Is scheduling a problem?

Managing time in a healthcare practice is an art. Unique problems arise because, as the doctor, your main priority is treating patients. But, how are you supposed to keep your full attention on patients and at the same time stay on top of the crucial administrative work that is paramount to maintaining a thriving practice? The essence of successful time management is the attainment of a level of organization which facilitates the goal of a healthcare practice, a high quantity of well and happy patients.

Simply stated, how well you organize determines how many hours you work and how productive you are during those hours.

If you are having difficulty managing your time, the first action you should take is to keep a time log during a typical work week. While this may be arduous at first glance, you will find it well worth the time and energy you put into it. Carry a small notebook with you throughout the day and log everything you do along with the amount of time you spent doing each. This is best done by logging the events as they happen and avoid trying to reconstruct the information at a later point in time.

At the end of the week, you will be able to look over the information and tabulate how much time was spent on the various activities you engaged in. This exact record will help you isolate areas of the practice that are not being competently handled by your employees and/or are problematic to the point of requiring much of your attention.

The next action you should take is to have each one of your employees keep their own time log, just as you did yours. At the end of the week, you can gather the logs and review the activity of each staff member.

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Presenting Treatment Plans – The Do’s and Don’ts

Are you advocating for the patient’s health or his wallet?

How should a treatment plan be presented?

What can a doctor and staff do to ensure a high acceptance rate?

What does all this have to do with sales?

These questions, left unanswered, could potentially cost a practice untold sums, quality of care can suffer, new and repeat business can drop off, office morale can be low and practicing can lose it’s entire purpose if patients are not receiving the care that they need.

Confusion About “Sales” Will Cost Practices a Fortune.

A sale is simply an exchange where all parties involved receive something of value. In healthcare professions, a patient receives care to fix a health problem and/or maintain good health. In exchange for the work done, the staff and doctor are paid.

A successful practice includes doctors and staff who care enough to sell patients exactly what they need. Each doctor is key in the sales cycle because without the doctor diagnosing and planning treatment for the correct care, there would be nothing to sell.

Most confusions stem from the false ideas that people have about sales. High-pressure techniques used by some people can leave a bad impression and make patients/clients want to shy away from buying at all. These techniques are not true sales techniques. In fact, using them can set a doctor up for failure. So to does going out of your way to avoid using any sales techniques at all.

Convincing vs. Selling

Convincing a person that they need to buy something is a different activity than selling them on an idea, service or product. Selling is really nothing more than obtaining agreement. A patient who understands the treatment needed and agrees that it needs to be done — and they are going to do it — is a result of a successful treatment plan presentation. In an attempt to convince a patient to accept a plan, a doctor often talks too much, which in most cases works against him. Good communication, then, becomes a key factor. A doctor using communication skills that serve to enlighten and educate will bring a patient to a point of understanding and agreement.

The Patient vs. The Wallet

Doctors can become so worried about whether or not the patient is going to consider a plan too expensive that they actually neglect giving the patient the true treatment plan. We have not met a doctor who does not consider him/herself a good technician. Yet, when it comes to passing treatment information along to a patient, a doctor can get in a habit of making the presentation more palatable by reducing the plan. Concerns about what the patient might think can get in the way. The wallet, then, becomes the center of attention rather than the exact treatment that the patient needs. Doctors do know what patients need, and this should be clearly expressed to the patient or the likelihood of primarily doing “patch-up” work will enter into the practice.

Plan A or Plan B or Plan C?

The doctor may give the patient too many choices. The patient is not a physician and, therefore, does not know what’s best for him. Patients rely on the doctor to tell them what they need. If the doctor doesn’t do that but gives them a choice between Plan A, Plan B or Plan C, the patient will naturally ask the cost of the different plans and select the least expensive one. Asking a patient to make a choice between a $600 plan, a $350 plan and a $195 plan will cause suspicion. One of the most common misconceptions about doctors is that they’re all rich. A patient may wonder why you would do a $600 plan if a $195 plan will suffice.

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Achieving Better Retention and Patient Satisfaction

Achieving Better Retention and Patient Satisfaction

Thriving successful practices have mastered the challenges of patient and client retention.

A question that needs to be asked, answered and fully understood is “Where does patient or client retention start?”

The truest and most simple answer is the point when the patient is procured!

You could say that patient procurement and patient retention are two sides of the same coin.

Let’s delve into this in a bit more detail.

Let’s delve into this in a bit more detail…

A practice, in essence, has a systematic way of obtaining patients, receiving patients, treating patients and collecting payment for services rendered.

In amongst all of this is the human element or the patient or client themselves. This is where the complexities of patient retention begin and end.

The Key Points That Determine Patient Retention.

How a Clinic addresses the human element is really the crux of succeeding in the challenges of patient retention.

Always keep in mind that underlying retention and patient satisfaction issues are usually issues with service, delivery, and the interaction with the staff.

There are several key points in any practice that determine the outcome of patient retention. This applies to new patients as well as existing patients. These are as follows:

  • Overall Clinic Environment and General Staff Interaction with the Patients
  • Front Desk – Patient Arrival
  • Patient Prep
  • Physician Interaction
  • The Front Desk – Patient Departure
  • Interim Period – The Time After the Patient Leaves Until the Time They Return.
  • Dealing with Patient Upsets

Each of these elements, when properly set up and organized, will lead to a higher degree of patient satisfaction and will result in better retention and better reviews.

In the next article, there will be some tips and strategies to help improve patient retention and treatment satisfaction.

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Nuts and Bolts of Obtaining Client Retention

This article is a continuation of Achieving Better Retention and Patient Satisfaction. If you haven’t done so yet, we recommend reading the first article to get a better context when reading this one.

This article will discuss some of the general aspects and strategies that will help the clinic achieve better retention and patient satisfaction.

Dealing with Upset Patients

Are there clear strategies, procedures and precise policies in place to deal with patients who are upset or dissatisfied with some aspect of the clinic or the service they received?

Is there a person in the clinic who is trained on these policies and designated to handle upset patients?

Staff that come into direct contact with patients should be trained to recognize bad indicators of patients and deal with them in accordance with clinic policies. This is particularly important to address before the patient leaves.

Is there a private place in the clinic where an upset patient can be consulted?

Are Surveys Being Used?

Perhaps the single most important tool to improve the patient experience is the survey.

This often overlooked but powerful tool, when used properly, can determine the exact course of action to take to directly improve retention and improve other aspects of the practice.

The use of surveys in a practice can also result in creating better promotional response in the acquisition of new patients. Other beneficial information can be derived from the use of surveys.

New and existing patients should be surveyed.

The actual subject of creating surveys and surveying is a rather involved technology. The entire subject of surveys would be impossible to cover in this article.

Ideally, there should be someone in the clinic who has at least a basic working knowledge of technology of surveying.

Manners Matter

There is much more to manners than just being polite. This is very important, but there may be other factors to consider on the subject of clinic manners.

Are patients being communicated to in a way that makes them feel understood and acknowledged?

Be Aware of and Sensitive to Personal Beliefs and Concerns

Treat each patient as the unique individual they are. Every patient likes to be made to feel special and important.

Be sensitive to patients who may have particular customs, beliefs and ideas about medicine and treatment.

Develop a culture in the clinic of compassionate care, patient importance and service orientation.

It would be very wise for a clinic to discover the demographic nature of their patient and client base.

Patient questionnaires and surveys can be used to discover any important information in this regard.

All of these things done should add up to a patient who feels that they are important and appreciated.

Who knows, in addition to good retention maybe the clinic will also get rave reviews to boot!

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Implementing Communication Systems

This article is a continuation of Profitable Communication Systems. If you haven’t done so yet, we recommend reading the first article to get a better context when reading this one.

In order to have a working, usable communication system, there are several elements that are integral in establishing and maintaining it.

The following is a brief outline of establishing a communication system in a clinic.

First and foremost, you will need an organization chart. This chart does not have to be fancy or elaborate, but it does have to accurately and concisely show who does what in the practice, and it needs to be kept current.

A correctly done organizational chart is scalable. That is to say, it grows with the practice staffing needs and doesn’t have to be redone each time a new hire is made or new position is defined.

The key elements of this chart show, at a glance, which person holds what position in the clinic, which part(s) of the clinic they are responsible for, and at least a summary of functions for each position.

Having this organizational chart is the first key ingredient to establishing a working communication system.

The “Hey, you!” system of management will not work for long as it will create too much stress and confusion and will prevent the clinic from growing.

A copy of this organization chart should be included in each job description.

In each job description, there should also be procedures and policies that explain and govern the use of the clinic communication system. These procedures and policies need to be clear and concise.

These policies should include the form that interoffice communications need to take. For example, dispatch or memo, intercom, verbal, email, etc.

Included in the job description should also be procedures and policies that govern who in the clinic needs what information relayed to them, based on their function, and what information the person themself needs in order to do their job.


  • Who needs what info and in what form when a new patient signs up?
  • How do staff members get supplies or things that they need for their jobs?
  • Who they communicate to if they are having some difficulty with their job, etc.?

The physical aspect of a communication system is simply a series of baskets, files, etc., where dispatches and memos can be received and routed. Instructions for using this part should also be included in each job description.

Spending time and energy creating a communication and organizational system for the practice is time and energy well spent. A good, sound communication and organizational system is the foundation of every successful practice.

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Workable Collection Examples and Tips

Workable Collection Examples and Tips

This article is a continuation of The Truth About Collections. If you haven’t done so yet, we recommend reading the first article to get the full picture.

Let me explain. If at the end of your fiscal year you have enough money to pay for everything, i.e., all of your overhead is covered, such as your staff salaries, your mortgage/lease, equipment payments, taxes, etc., any lost income then becomes your own lost personal net income. For example, if you were collecting an average of 93% (5% lower than what should be your standard) with an annual gross income of $650,000.00 ($55k per month), this would equate to a loss of $32,500.00 per year. Over ten years this amounts to a staggering $325,000.00! And that is essentially straight out of your own pocket. This is the equivalent of you working one year or more out of every ten years for free. Many doctors we survey think that “a few percent here or there isn’t that significant.” I hope the above numbers disabuse you of that idea.

With the above in mind, is it now worth it for you to spend the time to train your receptionist and/or collection/finance person on collecting properly?

Here are some tips on things that you can do to increase your collection percentages.

First Contact

When a new patient/client initially calls to make an appointment, the receptionist should keep it as simple as possible for the patient to arrive. So, you want to schedule them in as soon as possible. You want their first impression to be that they feel well serviced. The new patient/client should be informed to arrive early enough to fill out paperwork, so the appointment can happen on time. Payment terms and conditions should not be discussed on the phone with them. You want to make it as easy as possible for the new patient/client to come into the office and not be put off by anything during the initial contact. When they get into the office, you can then go over your financial policies. You should ask them to bring any insurance information that they have should insurance be relevant to the potential treatment. This should include the name of the company, their policy number, what is covered, what their deductible is, etc. Do not worry about having to get into the details of this over the phone and don’t make the patient feel harassed by this. You don’t want to turn the patient off before they even arrive, or they may not arrive. You want the patient to feel friendly and comfortable about coming into the office, but at the same time, you want them to bring any relevant data that they can.

When They Arrive

As soon as the new patient/client comes through the door, they need to be greeted warmly by the receptionist. The receptionist should then supply the new arrival with the necessary forms to fill out. Included should be a form covering your specific payment requirements indicating that payment is due at the time of treatment and/or your insurance agreements and arrangements. If insurance is involved, the form should include a place to provide what insurance they have, how much is covered, what the deductible is and, most importantly, that they will be expected to pay the copay, deductible or anything not covered by insurance at the time of treatment. They should also be told that, unless otherwise agreed upon, you don’t offer billing but will gladly accept cash and most major credit cards. Let them know if you offer financing through companies such as Care Credit, and if they feel that they will require such financial assistance, make sure they meet right away with the person in your office who handles these matters. If you don’t take care of it on the spot, you are likely to be left with a collection problem on this account. Make sure that you require their signature on this form that signifies that they have read, understood and will comply with the financial policy of your office

Once They Have Received Treatment

Validate your patient/client for the good decision that they made to confront and handle the problem that they came to you with. Let them know that they did the right thing and that the investment they made was a good one. Follow up the first treatment with a quality control call, ideally from the doctor, to make sure all went well.

As treatment continues, make sure that everyone in the office continues to reinforce the good decision the patient/client made, and make the patient/client feel welcome in the office.

If you do these things, you will see a turnaround in your collection percentages, and you will see your net income go up.

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If you have any questions or suggestions about this article, please feel free to submit them below. Our editors speak with professional Dr’s like yourself every day. They would be delighted to hear from you.