3 ways the healthcare staffing shortage impacts your dental patient collections and how to fight it
When it comes to today’s economic climate, the healthcare staffing shortage is a problem affecting a vital income source: dental patient revenue. The more dental teams need to give insurance collections the lion’s share of effort, the fewer resources they have to ensure patient balances come in.
Because we understand the cost of uncollected patient revenue, we’ve streamlined patient billing as part of our end-to-end revenue cycle management service. With your patient billing systems optimized, you collect more revenue sooner, and improve financial health.
The healthcare staffing shortage in the dental industry includes administrative staffing shortages, which negatively impacts patient collections.
This article will cover 3 ways the healthcare staffing shortage impacts patient collections, and why it’s crucial to find cost-effective solutions.
1. Being short-staffed limits resources to use best practices in the patient billing process
Best practices ensure you consistently use the most effective steps to achieve your goals. When staff time is limited and task-focused, workflows tend to go without adjustments and technology upgrades to ensure patient revenue is optimized.
For patients to pay promptly, you need best practices to ensure:
- Patients get accurate cost estimates. Does your team have an effective insurance verification process? Staffing shortages oftentimes put this process on the back burner. With out-of-date patient insurance data, you can’t accurately calculate a patient’s out-of-pocket estimate.
Giving your patient a ballpark number on their treatment is a good way to get them to accept their balance, but this number is only valid if you factor in their insurance coverage. It’s easier to collect from patients when you’ve given them a close out-of-pocket estimate.
- The time between treatment and collection of the patient’s balance is the shortest possible. Staffing shortages leave you without skills on hand to get insurance claims processed quickly and accurately. Without enough resources to verify insurance, prepare accurate claims, monitor accounts receivable, appeal denials, and keep on top of daily posting and adjustments, patient billing is delayed.
Delays make patients less sure that their balance is accurate.
The faster your systems verify benefits, and turn clean claims into payments, the more your patients trust your statements and pay them.
Related: Making the dental office more efficient: 10 tips for your dental team's financial and professional success
- The process to send timely statements and reminders is cost-effective and efficient
In other words, it’s automated wherever possible to require a minimum of staff time. Your team doesn’t have to spend time crafting emails to send one-by-one to patients that have outstanding balances.
- Communication increases patient acceptance and payment of balances. The more the patient understands their bill, the more likely they are to pay it. When your team has the expertise and time to communicate with patients about their treatment and insurance policy, they’ll understand the need and the cost.
- You offer more positive patient experiences by providing frictionless payment options on their preferred devices. The easier it is for a patient to pay, the more likely they will pay. By turning to paperless payments that patients can access on their devices, you’re making their process easy and convenient.
2. You have fewer resources to explain the patient's financial responsibility during the treatment plan presentation
One way the healthcare staffing shortage affects your patient collections is the quality of your treatment plan presentation, specifically patient financial responsibility.
Ideally, the presentation explains both the recommended care and the costs so that patients understand:
- The necessity of their dental treatment
- The explanation of cost
- The estimate of what their insurance may cover
- Their responsibility according to your financial policy and payment options
Related: 3 tips to successfully communicate your patient's dental treatment plan presentation
If you’re short on staff, you’ll be short on time to ensure that your treatment presentation is effective. The patient may not fully understand their financial responsibility, and be more unwilling to pay balances.
Poor communication with patients can result in decreased patient collections, and negatively impact your revenue.
3. Healthcare staffing shortages contribute to lower patient satisfaction
Have you ever been stuck on the phone with an insurance representative for 45 minutes? During which, a patient comes in, but you can’t hang up on the insurance because you’ve already been waiting so long.
Ideally, you wouldn’t have to deal with insurance representatives, and you’d be able to give your full attention to the patients walking through the door. But if you only have one or two people on your front-desk team, this isn’t possible.
Related: How to attract new patients to your dental practice or group: 3 tips to help you create an amazing patient experience
If your check-in, wait times, or check-out processes are a hassle, patients are going to suspect disorganization in your practice, which erodes trust and hurts relationships.
As Dr. David Moffet explains: “Many years ago, in my dental office, we couldn’t figure out why our patients were cancelling and not returning, after leaving our treatment rooms with such positive comments and experiences. We found, and found out quickly, that the verbiage being used at the front desk during patient check out, was undoing all and every piece of great work that the team in the operations was creating.”
If you sound rushed and pressed when patients are checking in or out, they’re going to notice.
If the patient dislikes their experience at your practice enough, they will leave and find a different dentist. Lost customers equal lost revenue.
Having time in your day to ensure patient satisfaction is the core of a good business model.
What’s the solution to increasing your patient collections during a healthcare staffing shortage?
To implement best practices easily, expert support may be the shortest path to success. Using revenue cycle management services allows you to improve patient billing and combat staff shortages in several ways.
When you work with revenue cycle management experts to support the patient billing process, you have access to the latest strategies, best practices and technology. Expert revenue cycle management services offer:
- Technology-assisted insurance verification to ensure your patient’s insurance coverage data is accurate, leading to more accurate cost estimates, and faster payment of insurance claims.
- Automated patient billing systems that send prompt payment reminders to patients and give you more payment options to offer them.
- Expert insurance claims processing that reduces your denials, handles your appeals, and follows up to ensure patients get the most from their benefits
In addition, you gain some other advantages when working with an RCM partner like DCS:
- Streamlined, efficient processes
- Increased revenue (from both patient and insurance collections)
- Decreased overhead costs
- Enhanced compliance
- Improved patient experience
- Better work-life balance for your in-house team
- Reduced risk of embezzlement
As your RCM partner, DCS offers these advantages to every process, including patient billing, to optimize financial health across the board.
Will you use RCM services to combat the healthcare staffing shortage and increase patient collections?
No one can control the staffing shortage. It’s a widespread issue across the United States, in all industries. But there are steps you can take to combat the staffing shortage to ensure your dental business is financially healthy.
The biggest issues are that your staff doesn’t have time to get everything done, a lack of expertise, and this result in poor customer services. These can all result in lower patients collections. But that’s revenue you’ve earned, and you shouldn’t have to write off every patient who decides not to pay for their services.
When you partner with RCM experts, you’re taking back control of your income. Your team will be empowered to spend their time ensuring patients understand their financial responsibility, while also providing an excellent patient experience.
To learn more about how DCS’ RCM experts can support your team, schedule a call with us.
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