“Help me help you!” I love that line in the film Jerry Maguire. It sums up the old truism that help comes after we help ourselves. This can be especially true when it comes to collecting from patients with past due accounts. By spending a little time gathering accurate information and “working” our past due accounts before we send them to a collections agency, we have seen dramatic increases in our ability to collect unpaid balances.

Helping YOurselF When it Comes to Collections

Our collections routine starts with the Dentrix Collections Manager. To start the Collections Manager, open the Office Manager and click Analysis > Collections Manager. You’ll be prompted to select search criteria so that you can limit your list to only past due accounts.

Once you have the report open, follow this quick process for accounts that are past due:

1- Send a statement. 

If you can see that the account is recently past due, select the guarantor’s name in the Collections Manager and then click Ledger. From the guarantor’s Ledger you can then click Process Billing Statement to send a statement to the patient right away.

2- Send a courtesy letter and make a phone call. 

From the Collections Manager, you can select the patient to contact and then click More Information to see a list of all the available phone numbers entered for the patient. You can also click Add Journal Entry to record details about the conversation with the patient.

3- Send a second, more forceful letter and make a second phone call. 

Create your own collection letters and merge them using the Quick Letters feature in Dentrix. In addition to your standard courtesy letter, consider making different letters to use when patients have stopped making payments, when they’ve only made a partial payment, etc. I really like how Dentrix automatically adds a note to the Office Journal indicating the letter name and the date it was created. That way, I have history of our correspondence.

4- Decide to either write off the balance (if it’s less than $100) or send it to collections.

For patients that continue to ignore us (and that have an account balance over $100), we send the account to a collections agency.

Helping the Collections Agency Help You

After a recent performance review with our collections agents, I discovered how much we could help them help us.

At my request, the agency completed an Integrity Analysis Report that revealed some very interesting trends. The agency was only able to collect 12 percent on accounts where we provided them with a correct address but the phone number(s) were disconnected or wrong. However, if we provided them with a working phone number and a correct address, their collections jumped to 40 percent. Even more amazing, if we could also provide them with valid work and home phone numbers, the agency was able to collect about 75 percent of the balances owed.

Thanks to this review, our team now makes sure that we’re sending every possible phone number and address we have available to the agency. Additionally, our staff tries to gather this information early on as part of our collections process.

Managing your past due balances is never fun, but by putting processes in place to standardize your collections operations, you’ll help yourself move to a higher collections percentage.

By Jill Nesbit