Why Dental Patients Don't Pay - and What Your Practice Can Do About It
Getting patients to pay their outstanding bill is a challenge for many dental practices. To address dental billing problems and improve collections, it's critical to examine the underlying reasons why patients don't pay.
Across all of healthcare, unpaid patient medical bills are a problem. The dental industry is shielded from the worst of these challenges, but getting patients to pay can be difficult to do and places a significant time burden on administrative staff.
So how does a practice get patients to pay while minimizing the time spent collecting bills? The key is understanding the reasons why patients don't pay. In our experience, there are the top four reasons why a patient doesn’t pay their bill, each requiring a different solution.
Reason #1: "I didn’t know that I owed the practice money."
Many patients are simply unaware that they have an outstanding bill. After paying a portion up front, they expect insurance to cover the rest. Mailing them a statement is a good first step, but mail delivery is getting slower and less reliable, and dental bills are often mistaken as junk mail and thrown away.
SOLUTION: LEVERAGE DIGITAL COMMUNICATIONS
31% of patients say they pay medical bills faster when sent text or email. Platforms like FeatherPay can send patients notifications by paper statement, email, and text message, ensuring that patients are aware of their bill.
Reason #2: "I forgot I had to pay that!"
You are busy, and so are your patients. It’s easy for a dental bill to be forgotten about in the hubbub of everyday life. You need to follow up with patients about their outstanding balance to ensure that it doesn’t fall through the cracks.
SOLUTION: AUTOMATE FOLLOW UP FOR OPEN BILL ACCOUNTS
Many patients simply need a reminder that they have an outstanding medical bill that needs addressing. Some practices have their administrative staff follow up with patients manually, but this is time consuming and can be emotionally draining. Payment platforms like FeatherPay have automated follow-up cadences that remind patients to pay their bill using a variety of different methods. Once a patient has been paid, the notifications stop.
Reason #3: "Paying that bill is so inconvenient."
In the last ten years, there has been a lot of innovation focused on making it easier for patients to pay for things. Buy now buttons. Saved payment methods. Streamlined checkouts. Digital wallets like Apple Pay and Google Pay. The healthcare sector in general and dentistry in particular` has lagged far behind other industries in adopting these technologies. Paying a dental bill is often a multi-step process for patients involving going to an unbranded website, logging into a portal, and entering their credit card information by hand. No wonder they don’t pay -- if you’d wanted them to pay, you wouldn’t have made it so hard for them to give you their money!
SOLUTION: A CONSUMER-CENTRIC PAYMENT EXPERIENCE
Deliver a patient payment experience that makes it easy for patients to get to and pay their bill. Platforms like FeatherPay enable a patient to save a credit card, pay by text, and use digital payment methods like Apple Pay, Google Pay, and PayPal.
With FeatherPay, each patient is sent a custom link, so there’s no login required; a patient can go from statement to payment in under 20 seconds.
Reason #4: "I'm having trouble affording my payment."
Not all patients aren’t paying because they forget or it's inconvenient. Many patients find it genuinely difficult to pay for their dental care. We’ve written about the problem of dental affordability and how to solve it extensively, because many dental practices miss key steps in addressing this problem.
SOLUTION: MORE PAYMENT FLEXIBILITY
Presenting patients with all of their payment options in a single interface, offering third-party and in house payment plans, and enabling patients to use multiple payment methods to complete their transaction will help patients who are struggling with affordability.
If you are interested in solving some of these dental billing problems, then FeatherPay may be able to help.
FeatherPay is a payment platform that streamlines billing, increases patient collections, and improves treatment plan acceptance for dental practices while making the lives of patients and administrative staff easier.
FeatherPay consolidates all of a practice’s payment options into a single experience for patients and administrators while enabling best-in-class digital communications with patients, including email, SMS/text and patient specific QR-code paper statements.
Practices that use FeatherPay have seen a 5-20% increase in their collections. Furthermore, they also see improvements in operational metrics such as same-day care, patient times in the office, and patient satisfaction scores.