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.

If you are an owner and would like free help on collecting past due accounts or any other management topic, fill out the form to your right, and we will be more than happy to assist you. Scroll to top


If you are an owner and would like free help on collecting past due accounts or any other management topic, fill out the form below, and we will be more than happy to assist you.

The First Step to a Successful Marketing Campaign: Research

To craft a successful marketing campaign for your practice, you must first conduct some basic research that will start to identify what your marketing plan and promotional pieces will look like and the message they should deliver. The first step in your research is to work out the general mindset and styles that dominate your particular geographic area. Every state, city, town or area has its own mindset and styles that are unique to that place. If you have lived in the area where you practice, chances are you know them well. Additionally, it is smart to check with others from the area to ensure that your opinion agrees with the general consensus. If you are new to the area, ask locals, as they generally have a good idea.

Some examples are provided below to give you an idea of what one might list as the mindset and styles for his/her area.

Example #1:

Mindset: “Slow and steady pace”, “Friendly”, “Easy going”

Style: Earthy. Lots of greens and whites used in colors.

Old fashioned.

Example #2:

Mindset: “Efficient and Professional”, “Friendly”, “Straight to the point”

Style: Modern and Edgy. Lots of blues used in colors.


Next, identify the top three practices in your area and find out how they market themselves. Doing this will enable you to see which marketing approaches have been successful for your area. Looking at your three competitors’ websites is a good start, as well as looking in the Yellow Pages, local newspapers, Valpak/ADVO, etc., to see how they are marketing. Look for which words they are using to sell their services to people, which offers they are advancing and what their designs look like.

The next step is to identify the successful campaigns or promotional pieces you have created and used thus far. You need to look for any promotional pieces, slogans, brochures, ads, internal marketing campaigns, discounts and word-of-mouth success that resulted in notable increases in delivery. Again, pay attention to the words that were used, the offers that were put forward and the visual impact of the design. It is also good to consider the general demographics of your area. A good website that provides this information for free is: Gathering this data should enable you to get a good idea of both what worked for you and what works for other similar professionals in your area. It also provides you with a general impression of what people in your area like and will respond to.

This basic homework will provide you with a foundation of information that can be used as you work out new marketing campaigns, whether internal or external.

Fill out the form on this page to read the rest of this article and find out the second step in crafting a successful marketing campaign. (highly recommended). Click to scroll to the top of the page.


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Your Responsibility to Your Staff

Just as your staff has responsibilities to you and your practice, you likewise have several responsibilities to your practice and staff.

The complexity of active leadership can be best understood by breaking it down into its essential and integral parts:

1. Communication: It is vital for the owner of a practice to maintain excellent communication with his/her staff and to provide active and visible leadership. The following are key elements involving communication that you, as an executive, should implement:

a. Communication of Goals.
Determine the purpose of your practice (most often presented in the form of a mission statement) and communicate that to your staff. Impart the goals of the practice to the staff and keep them informed of the projects that you intend to implement to achieve those goals. The better informed your staff is and the greater understanding they have of such matters, the more likely they will be working in tandem with you.
b. Communication Tools.
There are some fundamental communication tools to implement in the practice; see to it that your staff uses them. These tools can be established and maintained by your office manager; but, as the senior executive and leader of the practice, you must reinforce them. Examples of those tools are: written requests or proposals, written office communications, written office policies and the use of an effective communication relay system.
c. Responding to Communication.
It is vital that you and your staff respond swiftly to written communication. When people do not receive a reply to their memos or emails within an appropriate and reasonable period of time, thereafter they become less willing to communicate. As a result, the business can have more problems on its hands. (Keep that in mind when reading the second part of this article.

2. Staff Meetings: It is also vital that you ensure that the practice holds staff meetings once per week. This is one of the most valuable opportunities available to you for educating staff, setting goals and targets, and handling problem areas that should be addressed by the staff as a whole. The communication lines within the business will strengthen considerably too.

You, as the owner and leader, in addition to your office manager, should continually strive to establish strong coordination and leadership for your staff. Any problems or disagreements between the owner and office manager should always be sorted out OUTSIDE of the staff meeting and should never be addressed in the presence of any staff.

Staff meetings run most effectively if the owner and office manager meet prior to the staff meeting to plan and coordinate those matters to be addressed with the staff.

Fill out the form on this page to read the rest of this article and find out why writing and implementing Policy in your practice, as well as setting Goals and Targets successfully, is so vital to achieving expansion. (highly recommended). Click to scroll to the top of the page.


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Building a Successful Practice Through Efficient Hiring

To build the most productive and profitable practice, having stable staff that work together to accomplish the mission of the practice is vital. Knowing how and who to hire is a key skill. Losing employees who may have seemed appropriate for your team, yet were not actually a good fit, is an enormous hidden expense in a practice.

In fact, based on the typical costs of finding, interviewing, testing, training and getting a new employee fully functioning on the job, turnover costs can equal six to nine months of the salary of the position. If a position pays $3000 per month, your costs could be $18,000 to $27,000 every time the position turns over. Therefore, it’s vital to know how to screen applicants properly in order to hire the best possible individuals for your practice and avoid the stress and high cost of frequent turnover.

Checking References

Checking the references that a job applicant provides is an important but often neglected step in the hiring process. The quality of staff can make or break a practice, so investigate carefully and hire only those whose background indicates that they will be good employees.

Checking references is not always an easy process. Many employers have become reluctant to voice opinions about a past employee to protect themselves from legal or privacy issues. However, you should still do reference checks on any candidate that you consider hiring, to gather any data you can get.

It’s best to check references prior to a one-on-one interview with the applicant since you might uncover information that will eliminate that candidate and save you interview time. If that’s not possible, check references after the interview but before hiring.

Here are some questions you might ask references:

  • How long was _______ employed by you or your company?
  • Can you tell me his/her ending wage?
  • Why is he/she no longer employed there?
  • Was he/she a loyal employee?
  • Was he/she dependable?
  • Do you feel he/she is honest?
  • Would you rehire this person?

Again, a past employer may not be willing to answer some of these questions. The key question is the last one, “Would you rehire this person?” This question is important to ask if the reference person is very guarded or hesitant in giving answers.

Keep in mind that checking references is just one of several vital steps in the hiring process.

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Critical Practice Foundations

Critical Practice Foundations

The Basics

Most doctors, when starting their practices, miss some of the basic actions that should be established prior to opening.

An owner of a healthcare practice should always, as a first step, work out the following basics: their purpose as a practice owner, the actual product of the practice, and the statistics that will measure the success of the practice.

Below are examples that you can modify and use for your own practice.

Purpose of the Practice Owner

The owner’s purpose is to establish an efficient health care practice that delivers quality service to its patients and/or clients and to have a very solvent and viable practice that provides an enjoyable place for the staff to work and a high quality-of-life for the doctor/owner.

Once the purpose has been established, it is the owner’s responsibility to set the direction and the pace for the business and to demand that the valuable final products of the organization be achieved. To do that, she/he must work out what the product of the practices are. Here are some examples of products:

  • A solvent, viable, expanding practice that delivers high quality care and service
  • Satisfied patients and clients who have received high quality care and service
  • Statistics
  • Number of active patients/clients
  • Production
  • Collections
  • Net Income
  • Solvency (the amount of cash versus the amount of bills owed)

Putting the purpose, product and statistics in place will help create a strong foundation for the expansion of your practice.

Getting your staff on board with you is another part of this process.

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The Truth About Collections

The Truth About Collections

Accounts receivable and collection percentages are a subject that we hear about frequently. Every doctor has a different idea about what a good collection percentage is as well as how to collect money for services rendered.

For example, I have talked to many doctors that feel obligated to let patients/clients go without paying. They feel guilty about trying to collect from a patient/client if they feel that that person is in a financial hardship.

While this is quite altruistic, what these doctors must also understand is that they can’t continue to provide help to their patients/clients if they can’t afford to keep the doors of their practice open. If you provide a service, you should be compensated for it. Period. Unless you go into a situation knowing in advance that it is going to be a charity case – and there is certainly room for that in any practice, as long as it is planned for – you should insist on being paid for rendering that service.

Of course, this is great in theory, but being able to actually collect all monies owed is another story and requires good group coordination and effort. If you and your staff are trained on how to do this from initial contact through patient discharge, including having the proper policies in place with your staff and patients/clients, your chances of collecting at the time of treatment go up exponentially. We believe that you should be collecting 98% or better of what you are producing, minus insurance adjustments. If you are collecting less than 98%, you are losing net income out of your own pocket.

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Guest column: Coping With Conflict – Part Two

A Layperson’s guide to resolving conflict in the office

By Daniel A. Bobrow, MBA

President, American Dental Company

Part two in a series of two articles

In last issue’s article, we discussed models and tenets used to resolve conflict. In this part, I’ll go over the skills necessary that, once mastered, can greatly assist you in managing and resolving conflict in your office.

Active Listening

Truly listening and showing with your body language a sincere desire to know what the person is saying is vital. A person must feel that they are being heard for any resolution of any conflict or problem to occur. This can be further demonstrated by some of the points below.


Restating conceptually what is said to you to confirm your understanding. Care should be taken to “neutralize” statements by eliminating or changing words that are emotionally charged or are accusatory.


Another method has to do with understanding and matching the tone and pacing of a person’s speech pattern, and, if needed slowing it down. The goal being to calm the person so a more productive conversation may take place.


This is an abbreviation for Best Alternative To a Negotiated Agreement. It involves asking the person to consider what the best possible outcome will be if a mutually agreeable settlement can not be reached. An example of the use of BATNA is: “Joseph, I know you don’t like making reactivation calls in the evening. But you’re the only one on our staff who is capable of doing so. And you remember the mess we were in before we brought you on. What do you think will happen if we just stop doing this?” Embedded in this sentence is another technique called stroking (see below).

Reality Test

Similar to BATNA, reality testing attempts to get the person to see that his or her proposed solution is unrealistic, or at least, not optimum.

Blame Yourself, Not Others

A great way to neutralize tension during the mediation session is for the mediator to take responsibility for any misunderstandings or uncomfortable situations that might arise. For example, if a party grows impatient while the other party is speaking, you might say “I’m sorry for not giving you an opportunity to speak, Sam. Just as soon as Bill finishes, you’ll have your chance.”

Ask “Harmless” Questions

Ask “leading” questions: especially when the parties seem to have reached an impasse, ask “safe” questions that get the parties talking again. For instance, you might say “Whose turn is it to get lunch today? I’m starving!” or “By the way, did I remember to thank you both for helping me juggle those four patients this morning? I owe you for that one!”


Let the parties know that they’re doing a great job in the mediation, and you really appreciate their willingness to sit down and talk things over. It’s too bad more people are not willing to talk and listen.

The goal of all the above techniques is to get people to see for themselves why resolution of the conflict is in everyone’s interest, including theirs. If someone feels that they are being manipulated, or that a solution is being forced upon them, the parties to the conflict will be less likely to adhere to the proposed agreement. Remember that agreement is not the sole criterion of success. In fact, if either party feels the agreement is “forced on them,” it may do more harm than good.

An Ounce of Prevention

One way to deal with conflict is to create an environment where it is less likely to arise. One way to do this are to anticipate the kinds of conflict between staff members, doctors, and patients, then implement systems and training to prevent these situations from arising. Examples include:

“Personality Conflicts” between staff

Implement some form of compatibility assessment into your employee screening procedure, as well as for current employees. Doing so can help you understand who is most suited for working with whom. Employ active listening and caucus tools (see part 1, last issue).

“Trust is an essential ingredient of a productive and profitable environment,” says Dr. Ira S. Wolfe, DDS, president of Success Performance Solutions. “The willingness of people to exchange ideas and collaborate is thwarted when people are selected and promoted on the basis of skills and experience alone. ” People have to be able to get along with their co-workers in order to have a winning team environment. Wolfe’s SMARRT management process encourages and facilitates matching people who are compatible with the job, the team, and the practice culture. There are also testing procedures that help choose the right person for the right job and assesses their potential compatibility with other staff. Find some technique, test, or company who has experience and proven results in this area to help you with this. Doing this properly will result in less conflict and stress, and higher practice productivity.

Patient Complaints about being kept waiting

Implement a policy of notifying patients in advance if the doctor is running late. Promote a “no waiting policy” as part of your mission statement or declaration of principles. When the occasional complaint does occur, be prepared to use disarming verbiage such as “The doctor asked me to apologize to you for not being able to see you. He is busy with a procedure that has proven more involved than we anticipated. He assures me he will do everything he can to see you as soon as possible. Is that acceptable to you Mr. Jones?” Doing so before the complaint arises in the first place is a great way to show your sincere concern for your patient and respect for their time.

Staff Member refusing to implement changes or “grow with the practice.”

Caucus with that person employing the techniques covered above. Through good communication and active listening you can get to the source of this team member’s unwillingness to work with the team. In many cases, you may discovering something more fundamental going on that has farther reaching implications for the practice.

Another way of preventing conflict is to hire, then educate and motivate staff members to recognize the value of the work they do, and the value of the practice to its patients and the community. Involvement in charitable groups, for instance, can give the practice team a sense of shared pride, and serve to put in perspective the disagreements as self-indulgent exercises that neither the practice nor staff members can afford.

As I am writing this, I am experiencing a poignant example of potential for conflict. I am working on my laptop on a return flight from a conference I’d attended. A rather ample gentleman was seated in front of me. As he reclines his seat, my laptop is thrust into my abdomen. I struggle in vain to position the laptop in a way that will not restrict my breathing. Out of desperation, I at last say, “excuse me sir, I’m sorry to distrub you, but I wonder if it would be possible for you to bring your seat back up just a little bit and still remain comfortable. I realize these seats were not designed with the use of a laptop in mind, but it would be a great help if I could continue working on this article as I am under somewhat of a deadline.” He was immediately accommodating.

In addition to my choice of words, the fact that I had earlier helped this same gentleman avoid a bump to his head by pointing out the open overhead cargo bay no doubt set the stage for his cooperation. As to what I said, I was careful not to use accusatory or demanding language that suggested blame or that I was entitled to anything. I also showed a respect for his comfort, and directed the cause for the situation to the design of the seats. Finally, I offered a reason why I needed to continue my work.

Final Thoughts

Remember, an agreement needs to last, especially if between staff members.

A number of resources are at your disposal if you would like to learn more about how alternative dispute resolution (ADR) can help you achieve more harmonious relations in your practice. Which are appropriate depends on factors such as the number of staff members and the types of conflict you experience. I invite interested readers to contact me if they would like to learn more about these powerful techniques.

Daniel A. Bobrow, MBA is president of the American Dental Company, a Chicago-Based Consultancy serving the dental profession. He has mediated and arbitrated various cases. He is also Executive Director of Climb For A Cause, a non-profit Foundation whose mission is to provide health care treatment and education to people in need worldwide. He may be reached at 312-455-9488 and or

Case for Change in Dental Education Curricula

The American Dental Education Association’s (ADEA) Commission on Change and Innovation in Dental Education (ADEA CCI) was created to serve as a focal meeting place where dental educators and administrators, organized dentistry, and the licensure, accreditation, and examining communities could meet and coordinate efforts to improve dental education and the nation’s oral health.

An objective of this commission is to guide dental schools by discussing systemic efforts to foster change and innovation in dental education. As a facilitator of change, ADEA CCI is committed to providing leadership and oversight for a collaborative and continuous process of innovative change in the education of general dentists so that they enter the profession competent to meet the oral health needs of the public and to function as important members of an efficient and effective health care team. To that end, the Commission created two landmark articles published in the Journal of Dental Education, which is published by ADEA

The two articles, “The Case for Change in Dental Education” and “Educational Strategies Associated with Development of Problem-Solving, Critical Thinking, and Self-Directed Learning” address the rationale for change while examining a number of mounting issues, including the high cost of education, the need to promote the provision of oral health care to all Americans, and current students dissatisfaction with the state of dental education.

Answering these questions begins with determining best practices for helping dental students acquire skills necessary for their careers in dentistry, and ultimately become experts through lifelong learning. These papers offer ADEA CCI’s first recommendations on benchmarks that faculty and academic planners can use to assess the degree to which their curricula include learning experiences associated with attaining mastery of the dental profession for future graduates. “Scientific advances driving the delivery of health care are taking place at lightning speed. We can no longer afford to base our education programs on the memorization of present day facts. Programs developing tomorrow’s health care providers must concentrate on the creation of lifelong learners capable of providing evidence-based care that meets the need of society,” said Dr. Kenneth L. Kalkwarf, ADEA President and ADEA CCI Chair.

ADEA CCI’s activities are based on four guiding assumptions:

Assumption 1: Diversity of dental school curricula is a strength of dental education;

Assumption 2: Dental education has been and must remain firmly rooted in scientific discovery;

Assumption 3: Dental education must change in significant ways to develop students into lifelong learners;

Assumption 4: Achieving meaningful change and innovation in dental school curricula is a systemic process.

The Commission consists of representatives from ADEA, dental schools, the ADA Board of Trustees, the Commission on Dental Accreditation, the ADA Council on Dental Education and Licensure, the Joint Commission on National Dental Examinations, the dental licensure community, the ADA Foundation, and allied and advanced dental education programs.

SOURCE: AScribe Newswire

Music, Physics, A Sailboat and Dentistry

Profile: Dr. David Matthews

Practice: David R. Matthews Dental Group, LLC

Location: Eugene, Oregon

Music, Physics, A Sailboat and Dentistry

A music teacher with a penchant for physics, Dr. Dave Matthews changed careers after ten years of teaching music to become a dentist. A graduate of the University of Oregon in 1970, Dr. Matthews taught music in Dallas, Oregon until 1980 when a compelling desire to practice dentistry took him to Oregon Health and Science University’s Dental School. After graduating in 1984, he started his second professional career, this time as a dentist.

For the next 12 years, he practiced what he felt was excellent general dentistry. But he hit a production plateau that he couldn’t break free from. As part of this, Dr. Matthews had problems effectively managing his employees and his new patients had dropped precipitously to an average of four per month. He didn’t know why. As he was untrained in practice management, including how to best hire, train and deal with employees and market for new patients, he was at a bit of a loss as to what to do.

“We weren’t productive, we had no office procedures and I had no skill in confronting people positively,” said Dr. Matthews. At the time, he was producing about $200,000 per year.

His wife Carol was still a schoolteacher when he begged her to train as an office manager at his practice. She commented that, “At that time the staff said that he didn’t talk to them. That sure didn’t help matters!”

It was at that point when Dr. Matthews turned to hiring practice management consultants in an attempt to reverse what he considered to be a very negative downward slope.

And it reversed in a big, big way.

Last year, his practice produced over $1.3 million and averaged 44 new patients per month. So, over the past 9 years of receiving practice management consulting, Dr. Matthews increased his production 650 percent and his new patients by over 1000 percent!

Carol Matthews said, “He has become a much happier person and an extremely better manager of people and all the other business aspects of running a practice.”

Dr. Matthews said, “I’ve always been interested in helping people in some way. Practicing dentistry allows me to do that, not only with my patients, but also with my staff. I love helping my staff grow in competence, not only as employees, but also as people. The ones who ‘get it’ and apply it are great to see.”

“We continue to use the consultants who helped us achieve this growth, because it makes life easier, more enjoyable and I gain more skills to create a better practice,” Dr. Matthew explained.

His success in dentistry has afforded him a rich life. He and Carol met in high school and have been married for over 37 years with two grown children. “Sailing is a big hobby. I own a 42-foot sailboat and get out whenever I can,” he said.

He didn’t leave music entirely however. He still plays the saxophone and performed in a big band in Eugene, Oregon for 15 years.

Dr. Matthews said, “I’m a much happier person and am truly getting what I want out of life. What more could you ask?”

Guidelines Change for Preventive Antibiotics

Guidelines Change for Preventive Antibiotics Before Dental Work

According to new guidelines, far fewer people need preventive antibiotics before dental procedures than previously recommended, according to a recent issue of Mayo Clinic Women’s HealthSource.

The use of preventive antibiotics for people with certain heart conditions stemmed from worries about endocarditis. That condition is an infection of the thin membrane that lines the chambers and valves inside the heart, called the endocardium. Endocarditis occurs when bacteria or germs from another part of the body, such as the mouth, enter the bloodstream and travel to the heart and attach to abnormal heart valves or damaged heart tissue.

An American Heart Association (AHA) committee found that for most people, the risk of endocarditis from dental procedures was low. Daily activities, such as brushing, flossing or chewing, are much more likely to cause endocarditis than are bacteria that enter the bloodstream from a single dental procedure.

“Preventive antibiotics before dental work are now recommended only for people who, if they develop endocarditis, are more likely to die or have serious complications,” says Walter Wilson, M.D., an infectious diseases specialist at Mayo Clinic. Dr. Wilson headed the AHA committee that recently revised the guidelines.

The new recommendations suggest preventive antibiotics before dental work only for those people with artificial heart valves, a history of infective endocarditis, certain forms of congenital heart disease and cardiac valve abnormalities following a heart transplant.

Preventive antibiotics are no longer recommended for many people who have common heart conditions such as mitral valve prolapse or rheumatic heart disease. Before their next dental visit, patients who have taken preventive antibiotics should check with a doctor or dentist to discuss the guideline changes and determine if the medication is necessary.

Source: Newswise