Discussing Payment with the Patient/Client: How to be Both Polite AND Effective

You should always assume that a patient/client can afford the recommended treatment when discussing payment with him. Don’t be shy, embarrassed or apologetic about the cost of your services. This can give the appearance that the treatment isn’t worth the fee being charged.

When making financial arrangements, your goal should be to collect the entire fee at the time of service via direct payment and/or verified insurance reimbursement. You should have a well-defined financial policy for patients to read and agree to with regard to payment of service.

It is important that the accounts manager does not give the patient/client the opportunity to say “no”. Never say, “Would you like to take care of that today?” Instead, give her options that are compatible with office policy. For example:

“Mrs. Smith, the fee for today is $50. Will you be paying with cash, check or credit card?”

With such an approach, “no” is simply not an option. Remember, if you make clear financial arrangements in the first place, you won’t have any trouble collecting the amount due.

Suppose there was a misunderstanding and the patient/client tells you she can’t afford to pay the entire balance at the conclusion of the visit. Your reply might be,

“Could you tell me how much you are able to pay at this time?”

The idea here is to get the largest payment possible. Now you need to secure the balance:

“Mrs. Smith, that will leave a balance due of $560. We need to work out an agreement on how that will be taken care of.”

When she agrees to a definite date for the payment of the balance, put the information on a financial agreement form and have her sign it.

If it becomes necessary to offer a monthly payment plan to a patient/client, adhere to the payment schedule as governed by office policy. Do not stray from the established policies.

Fill out the form to learn (1) what to do if someone REALLY can’t afford your service and (2) how to address insurance reimbursement issues with your clients/patients (highly recommended). Scroll to top

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Fill out the form to learn (1) what to do if someone REALLY can’t afford your service and (2) how to address insurance reimbursement issues with your clients/patients (highly recommended).








Get Your Promotion Organized: A Promotion and Marketing Calendar – Part 1

Have you ever noticed that you have all sorts of great marketing and promotional ideas that you just never seem to put into action?

Do you realize during a staff meeting that those brilliant ideas that captured everyone’s attention and agreement in the previous meeting haven’t even been thought of again until just now?

Have you ever come to the end of a month and realized only then that you didn’t get around to doing much marketing or promotion at all? If so, you’re not alone!

While the specific reasons for failure to successfully carry out promotional actions vary from one practice to another, the most common cause is simply the failure to write them down on a marketing calendar designed to pinpoint what actions will be taken…and when.

A Promotion and Marketing Calendar is a potent, yet uncomplicated, tool.

It designates and specifies those agreed-upon activities which, when performed by the staff, will bolster the flow of new patients/clients into the practice.

By logging an idea on the calendar when it is conceived, it becomes concrete, agreed-upon, predicted, planned for, etc. The calendar helps to maintain control and structure in the Promotion Department and acts as a communication tool for the rest of the staff, as it is there in writing for all to see.

The Director of Promotion (if you don’t have one, get one) would be in charge of seeing to it that all pertinent information is entered on the promotion calendar. He would bring it to the staff meeting each week and review those activities and events that are either in progress or being planned.

The promotion and marketing of the practice is an ongoing activity.

The marketing calendar should be kept full of activities for at least 6 months ahead so that the practice always has some type of promotional actions occurring.

The items on the marketing calendar could include, but would not be limited to, such things as:

  • Open Houses
  • Client/Patient Appreciation Day (Week or Month)
  • Direct Mail Out projects
  • Newsletter preparation and distribution
  • Special days and PR functions for that day (e.g. Valentine’s Day, Grandparents Day, Secretaries’ Day, etc.)
  • Dental Health Month (and associated plans, projects)
  • National Pet Month
  • Educational Letter Series production and distribution schedule
  • Reminders to the staff to stimulate referrals
  • Staff games for activities such as prospecting and referrals

Click here to fill out the form and receive specifics on the TYPE of calendar to use and HOW to use it to ensure your marketing gets DONE (highly recommended).

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Fill out the form to continue reading the specifics on the TYPE of calendar to use and HOW to use it to ensure your marketing gets DONE. (highly recommended).








How to increase efficiency, productivity and net profit in a private practice

There is an impression with healthcare practitioners everywhere that all a practice has to do to increase production is to increase the number of new patients. More new patients is often the universal solvent for an under-producing office.

However, attracting new patients is only 1 of 7 areas of a practice that lead to the efficiency, productivity and the overall net of a practice. There are 6 other areas of a practice that a doctor/practice owner can improve on to increase the profitability and gross income of an office without seeing a single increase in new patients. This does not mean that attracting new patients should be ignored, but what it does mean is that the other areas of the practice should be addressed with just as much importance as the new patient area. In order to improve those areas one must, for starters, know what those areas are. Below you will see the basic actions of each of these areas.

Personnel: A practice owner should know how to hire the right staff and know when and how to fire staff that aren’t productive. Holding onto non-compliant and under productive staff, at a time when unemployment is still high in most areas of the country and the employment pool is more qualified that it’s been in 25 years, is both poor management and foolish. A practice owner can learn how to monitor staff productivity and not judge staff on “feelings” or what other people say about certain staff. Learning how to objectively manage is a key to a productive, efficient and happy office. Part of this is knowing how to train staff on their jobs with proper job descriptions. Having known and applied office policy can make a staff operate in a coordinated fashion and work together as a team resulting in higher productivity and morale. How you hire, train, monitor and take care of your staff is the basic concept of this area. Making this area work properly requires good job descriptions and office policies that are known and understood by all staff as well as having effective statistical monitoring systems for all areas of the office, a good internal communication system and good communication skills by those managing the practice.

Treatment: Exams must be comprehensive and relationships must be built in a very limited amount of time. Value must be demonstrated through excellent care and communication by all personnel involved in any aspect of treatment delivery. Five minutes of sincere, honest and meaningful communication is worth more than 30 minutes of superficial chitchat. Treatment must be top notch using up to date methods and equipment. This area is the province of the doctor and where the “Doctor Hat” is worn.

Enrollment: A practice can increase the quality of case presentations and show more value for the services they are delivering through very simple, basic communication and sales skills. There is still plenty of money being spent these days. A practice must be better at showing value than a competitor down the street. A successful practice never makes a patient feel uncomfortable or pressured through poor case presentation and sales skills. Proper case presentation results in patients/clients knowing what they need and wanting the service and willing to look at how to work out the economics of the service needed. Also, having a good recall system and an excellent patient reactivation program can increase a practice’s production by one third or more.

Part two of this article will cover financial management, marketing, quality control actions, personnel and your actions as an owner and executive that are vital to running a more efficient and viable practice.

Fill out the form to the right and receive “How to increase efficiency, productivity and net profit in a private practice – Part II” (highly recommended). Scroll to top

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Fill out the form to continue reading this article How to increase efficiency, productivity and net profit in a private practice – Part II (highly recommended).








Marketing and Promotion Ideas for Your Practice

In my nearly 23 years of delivering practice management training and consulting, I’ve found that of all of the marketing techniques available, properly asking for referrals is easily one of the most useful marketing and promotional ideas for your practice. There are several reasons for this:

  1. It is the least expensive. You don’t have to create and buy ads, make newsletters, send mailings, etc.
  2. It is something that you can directly affect on an ongoing daily basis and see and monitor the results without much time lapse.
  3. It is something that you can train all of your staff to do. You can create reward systems to enhance the staff to do more of it.
  4. You can, more than any other way, attract the type of patient/client that you want. If you analyze the patients/clients in your practice, you can quickly isolate those who are the most cooperative, financially secure and the most fun to have around. These people will, by referral, bring in similar types of new patients.

The whole trick to getting referrals is nothing more complicated than ASK FOR THEM. This can and should be done as a coordinated team effort by all staff. There are many successful actions that you can implement in order to accomplish this.

To get referrals, first, determine which patient/client will be approached. A quick staff meeting at the start of the day can identify patients/clients who’ve had great results and are very happy with their service. Those satisfied people are the ones that you would want to approach. Next, determine who will talk with one of these people. It may likely be the receptionist who will be talking with the person after their appointment. Lastly, work out a simple script that can be used and have a card ready to give out to the person that they can then give to their referral.

Other Marketing Ideas

The following is a list of other successful actions that you can do to promote your practice and get new patients. They are all very inexpensive and easy to do:

  • Ask for referrals!
  • Ask for referrals!
  • Ask for referrals! (ok, point made).
  • Send patients birthday cards.
  • Send out a quarterly newsletter that educates patients.
  • Put up a new patients/clients welcome board in the reception room.
  • Put up a “Thank you for referring” board in reception listing out the patients/clients who referred new patients to the practice.
  • Send thank you letters to every patient/client who referred anyone into the practice.
  • Reward referring patients/clients by sending them to dinner, the movies, etc.
  • Provide a staff reward for generating referrals.
  • The doctor and staff should hand out business cards anywhere and everywhere that is appropriate.
  • Post your practice mission statement in your reception room.
  • Make post-care calls to patients/clients to ensure that they are doing well. This shows you really care.
  • Give tours of the office to school children.
  • Offer family discounts for cash patients.
  • Put up educational posters in all treatment rooms or areas to educate patients about the health care you deliver.
  • Have TV monitors with educational videos that are on a continuous playback loop showing in reception and/or treatment rooms.
  • Have a patient/client appreciation month.
  • Participate in health fairs.
  • Give brisk service with lots of care and affinity.
  • Have all staff who are on the phone always “smile on the phone.”
  • Stay in good communication with any patient or client who is waiting – never let them just sit in silence for any long period.
  • Never make patients/clients wait. Deliver on time.
  • Call your patients/clients by name.
  • Develop a logo and place it in every possible place you can – letterhead, newsletter, business cards, posters, etc.
  • Call patients/clients 2 weeks and then 2 days prior to recall appointments.
  • Confirm appointments the day before.
  • Have simple informational pamphlets. Create your own if you have to.
  • Make follow-up calls after sending a postcard mailer.
  • Use over oversized or odd-sized business cards. People will notice and remember them more than a normal card.
  • Take photos of happy patients and clients and place them on the bulletin board.
  • Have the doctor write a column for a local newspaper or other publication addressing issues within your profession.
  • Share successful results of patient delivery with your staff.
  • Once per year, offer 10% off for payment in full on all old accounts receivables.

All of the above actions will cost you very little up front and will generate the highest quality patients for your practice. Put these into place and you will see your new patient numbers not only increase, but the quality of your patient base will increase.

If you would like no-cost, no-commitment tips on how to effectively implement this information into my practice, fill out the form to the right, and we will be more than happy to assist you.

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If you are a practice owner and would like to receive either:

  • A Practice Owners Job Description pack (valued at $129)
    OR
  • A free one hour consultation on any practice management topic

In exchange for a 15 minutes, anonymous phone survey (at the day and time of your choosing), to assist in our upcoming publication by The Practice Solution Magazine (highly recommended). Fill out the below form.







Putting New Employees on the Job

Practice owners bring on new employees for a variety of reasons. Often, when practices are undergoing expansion of production and income, they require increased staffing. Or, due to poor past hiring procedures practice owners find that they have to replace some employees who are poor performers. There is a natural attrition rate as well when a staff member moves out of town, gets a higher paying job, etc.

Many past Practice Solution articles have been written on numerous aspects of our successful hiring procedures, including testing, how to conduct proper interviews, how to weed out non-qualified candidates, legally acceptable and unacceptable questions to ask, etc. You’ll find some of those articles in this issue of Hot Tip.This article will go over some of the best actions to implement when putting new employees on the job.

Once you’ve decided to hire a new staff member, the first thing to do is have them complete all appropriate paperwork. This would include signing whatever employment contract you use as well as having them read all of the appropriate office policies and attesting to having read them.

Personnel File

A personnel file is vital for maintaining proper documentation on every employee. You can set yourself up for legal problems in the future if you don’t have this properly in place. Therefore, creating a personnel file for the new employee is one of the first things you should do after hiring the person.

The office manager should create a personnel file for the new employee which contains:

  • The full job application and the resume turned in during the hiring process.
  • Any other forms used in the hiring process.
  • Any tests taken.
  • Any interview notes, write ups, etc.
  • Employment contract.
  • A copy of the policies the new employee read and signed.
  • A checklist of everything the office manager will be doing with the new employee to bring them onto the job. Make sure the checklist is filled out as each item is done.

As the new employee becomes a regular employee, the personnel file should be constantly updated with job reviews, disciplinary warnings, commendations, etc. The personnel file is your key management tool for documenting everything having to do with that employee, from the time they are hired until the time they leave, for whatever reason.

Request Part II: Putting New Employees on the Job – Part II (highly recommended) Scroll to top

 

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The Basics on Bonus Plans
Getting Staff to Produce the Quantity you Need and Want

It is very wise to have a bonus plan for staff in operation in your office. If you reward staff for increasing their production and the production of the practice, they will naturally want to continue to do that, and the whole staff will tend to operate much more as a team.

In structuring a bonus plan, the simpler you can make it for yourself and your staff, the better. Bear in mind that you want the staff working as a team and that there are several areas of concern. Consider the following:

The best bonus plans are ones that get the entire staff working together towards increased viability for the whole practice, while rewarding their own increased production. A plan that gives staff bonuses when the practice is not viable is a loser for the doctor/owner. At the same time, not providing bonuses to staff for their increased production when the practice is getting more and more viable provides no incentive or reward for the staff and will lead to a less cohesive and productive group. So, you have to put together a system that takes into account the major statistics of the practice, the viability of the practice, and the individual production of the staff members.

Certainly, you want higher production statistics, but if you pay bonuses only on increased production, you could be painting yourself into a corner if the collections do not keep up with the production. You could be paying bonuses out of your own pocket!

At the same time, generally, only one person is handling collections. But even so, a team effort can come into play in this area. Staff members who do not formally have anything to do with collections can still be of assistance by not overburdening the person in charge of collections with other matters. The staff can offer to help out with getting statements out. If appropriate, the staff can offer to perform other helpful functions (as time allows) so that the person in charge of collections can handle financial matters. All staff should be cognizant of relaying important financial related information to the accounts manager if they become aware of a situation that could affect the financial area. Additionally, the better service a patient/client receives, the easier it is to collect payment. All staff can contribute to collections by doing their own jobs well.

If the staff is focused only on production statistics, they may not focus an appropriate amount of attention on promoting new patients/clients in the practice. New patients/clients coming into the practice is one of the prime factors involved in your being able to generate more production and collections. The new patient/client area ties in closely with the growth and viability of the practice. All staff can be responsible for the inflow of new patients/clients into the practice by their own promotion from their job area, as well as outside of the practice.

The point becomes self-evident. The staff must be focused on all of the above and working as a team to keep all of those statistics going up. The practice will grow, and they will be rewarded for their contribution to that growth. At the same time, the practice’s viability must be looked at.

To read our “sample bonus plan”, please fill out the form to the right. (highly recommended). Scroll to top

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Fill out the form below to read our sample bonus plan (highly recommended).








Do You Know What Constitutes Great Service?

The Four Components of Great Service

Great service to your patients/clients is one of the most important factors required to build a successful and thriving practice. Under the heading of great service, you will find the following key components: convenience, communication, cost and quality, and the importance of your service as perceived by the patient/client.

Convenience: Consider the location of your practice. People generally select a service based on how convenient it will be for them to get to the location. Surveys and studies show that well over half of the public selects their healthcare services because of a conveniently located facility.

Are your hours structured to meet the needs of your patients/clients? Most people operate on a very hectic schedule and will actively seek out those practices that offer convenient or flexible hours. Practices that really work at ways to make it more convenient for their patients/clients to use their services will surely reap the rewards for their efforts.

Communication: Words are not the only way in which communication occurs. Appearances and actions weigh equally as important in conveying an idea or concept to your patients/clients. Look at your staff, building, reception area, signs, business cards, letters, etc. What do these communicate to the public?

Decide exactly what it is that you wish to communicate to your patients/clients and prospective patients/clients. Then convey that in not only verbal communication, but in all of the above categories as well. Teach your staff to do the same.

To receive the other two points that constitute great service, please fill out the form to the right. (highly recommended). Scroll to top

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Fill out the form below to receive the other two points that constitute great service (highly recommended).








Dealing with a Problem Employee

I received an email recently from a doctor having a staff problem. I replied to her and thought this might benefit some other people out there. Please see our discussion below:
Hi Ken,

As an employer, how can you tell your employee to stop his/her: gum smacking, not to laugh at the end of each sentence, to stop blowing her nose as everybody can hear it, to stop asserting herself on someone else’s conversation?

I have such a hard time saying something to my assistant about these issues. Everybody in the office is being affected, and I am not happy at all with her. I try my best to tell her what I would prefer from her as an employee, but it hasn’t worked.

Please help me.

Dr. S

My Reply

Dear Dr. S,

There are several things that can help you in this current situation and help prevent this from happening in the future. This is a bit of a lengthy reply due to the nature of your problem. Please take the time to read through this as I believe it will give you some insight into the problem and how to handle it.

The first, and probably the most important thing is to make sure that you have very detailed job descriptions and office policies in place. In your office policy manual, there needs to be written policies about acceptable and unacceptable employee behavior. When new employees are hired, they are given a copy of this policy manual, and they are to read and sign off on them. This lets them know what is and isn’t permitted in your office. They agree to this, and you now have legal recourse for disciplinary action and/or termination for non-compliance.

As new policies are written, a copy is handed out to all employees for them to read and sign off on. These signed agreements are added to their personnel files. These can then be referenced in regular employee evaluations, disciplinary actions, and if needed, termination situations.

If, however, you only deliver your requests verbally, you leave these requests open to interpretation. It is imperative to have everything in writing so that there is no room for interpretation.

The other underlying issue that I see here is hiring the right people to begin with. There are three steps here:

  • Attracting the right kind of employees,
  • Determining who to hire, and
  • Training them to do their job properly after you’ve hired them.

When you are looking to fill a new position, the wording of your ad/listing is key. Where you are advertising is also a big factor. Utilizing employment agencies that pre-screen applicants to your qualifications can greatly increase the quality of candidates that you see, weeding out the lower quality people ahead of time.Determining who to hire is a shot in the dark for most doctors. They read a resume, conduct an interview and take a shot. No one writes on their resume that they are chronically late, don’t take directions well and can’t get along with others. What you see on a resume is only what the applicant wants you to see. Similarly, all you hear in an interview is what they want you to hear. They say the right things or at the very least what they think that you want to hear in order to get the job.

After they are hired they stay on their best behavior until they get comfortable; then, they become themselves. Only then do you know who you’ve really hired.

You need a more objective way to screen and hire people so that you have a better idea of who they are, what kind of personality they have, their responsibility level, their aptitude and their work ethic. Corporations have been hiring people this way for years. Small businesses suffer through much higher turnover rates due to their lack of successful hiring techniques.

Personality tests, IQ tests, Aptitude tests are all implemented to get a feel for who a person really is and how they will fit into your practice and interact with the staff, more importantly your patients.

Once you have hired the right person, you need to make sure that you train them properly. This is where detailed and up-to-date job descriptions and office policies come into play. It is vital that you equip your new employee with the proper tools to do their job rather than throw them to the wolves and hoping they pick up the proper way to do things as they go.

Here is a policy regarding employee performance evaluations. Take a look at this as I think it will give you an idea of the kinds of policies that should have a place in your office policy manual.

To receive “an example policy regarding employee performance evaluations”, please fill out the form to the right. This example policy can help you better understand the exact types of policies that are most beneficial to have in your company’s office policy manual. (highly recommended). Scroll to top

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Fill out the form to receive a policy regarding employee performance evaluations (highly recommended).








Proper Case Presentation and Better Case Acceptance

We have found that doctors can lose thousands of dollars per month because they are unaware of some of the principles associated with proper case presentation and case acceptance. In addition, sometimes the best treatment planning and case presentation doesn’t result in patient acceptance because staff members are not trained in systems that will increase patient compliance with what the doctor is recommending. Lost revenue due to inefficiency and missed opportunities for growth cost a practice far more than most doctors realize.
One small but vitally important point to be aware of in presenting treatment plans is that the terminology used must be easily understood and at the understanding level of your patient. We see all too often doctors using technical terms that are not understood by the common patient. If the patient doesn’t understand the terms, they won’t fully understand the recommendation, and the acceptance rate will be lower than it should be. This is but one point of many key parts of proper case presentation and better case acceptance.

Another basic but vital point in treatment plan presentation is only presenting what you feel is the best course of treatment for that patient. We’ve seen far too often doctors assuming that patients/clients can’t afford a treatment, so instead of presenting what they feel is appropriate, they present an A, B and C option. Of course, the C option is the least expensive, and the A option is the most expensive. When you present multiple options up front, the likelihood of someone picking the A option (the best course of treatment) is greatly reduced. When you present cases in this manner, you will likely be performing a disservice to your patients, and your gross income will end up going down.

You should always present one course of treatment to the patient/client. Diagnose the condition – do not diagnose their pocket book. Do not fall into the trap of pre-judging what you think they can and cannot afford. They have come to you because you are the expert, and they want your expert opinion. Present it, and if they have concerns, objections or need more education on the matter, handle each issue one at a time. If it is a concern about being able to afford it, let them know that you accept credit cards and care credit (if applicable) to help them make payments and get the treatment. If you exhaust all other avenues, then give them a B and C option. But, never lead with anything other than the A option.

If you do this, your patients will start getting a better level of care, and the income of your practice will go up. If you would like more information on how to give a proper case presentation, increase case acceptance or any other management topic, fill out the form to the right, and we will be more than happy to assist you.

If you would like more help dealing with increasing your case acceptance or any other management topic, fill out the form to the right, and we will be more than happy to assist you.

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If you are a practice owner and would like to receive either:

  • A Practice Owners Job Description pack (valued at $129)
    OR
  • A free one hour consultation on any practice management topic

In exchange for a 15 minutes, anonymous phone survey (at the day and time of your choosing), to assist in our upcoming publication by The Practice Solution Magazine (highly recommended). Fill out the below form.







How Do You Get Your Employees to Think Like You Do?

The Mission Statement

A primary responsibility of the owner of a practice or a business is to set the pace and direction for the practice or business by contemplating, defining and establishing exactly what the mission of the practice or business is. By doing so, the owner provides the guiding principle for the entire activity.A mission statement can be used to maintain the focus for the owner and staff. It can be used as a point of reference along the line. Oftentimes, a staff can simply get caught up in the day-to-day functions of their individual jobs, forgetting (or maybe never having really known) what the purpose of the activity is. A fully functional team can then never truly come to fruition.

It is up to the owner to determine why he/she is engaged in the activity to begin with, what the purpose and goal is and to form a team that is mutually in agreement with the purpose and the goal. It is that understanding and agreement that will allow people to evolve into a coordinated group, working together toward the long-term objectives of the owner.

The second part of this article contains a sample mission statement. Use it as a model for developing one that suits your practice or business. Once it has been developed, distribute it amongst your staff, go over it as a group at your staff meeting and have each staff member place their copy in the front of their respective staff binders.

Fill out the form to the right to receive your “sample mission statement” (highly recommended). Scroll to top

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Fill out the form to receive your sample mission statement (highly recommended).