Guest Post – How to Select a Collection Agency

Guest Post – How to Select a Collection Agency

I have seen a noticeable number of dentists’ post requests on Social Media like “can someone recommend a good collection agency” which prompted me to write this article.  My ultimate goal is to help educate, motivate and empower the dental community to make informed decisions regarding this important topic.

Selecting a collection agency is similar to purchasing a handpiece, car or a toothbrush in that not all are created equal.  Largely, it depends on the customer and what options are most important. Factors to consider are cost, risk versus reward, patient relationships, staffing scenario and maintaining your brand.

It’s important to acknowledge that using a collection company is merely treating symptoms of a system that is not working at optimal efficiency.  Here are some quick tips you can implement today to reduce your reliance on a collection service.

  • Properly pre-estimate insurance portion at time of service. This can be performed internally, or you can hire a person or a company to do this for you but, it needs to be done properly.
  • Have an array of third party financing options for people with a spectrum of credit scores.  Consider using in house financing with guaranteed methods of payment in certain circumstances.
  • Train and empower your staff to collect at time of service. If there is not a cultural expectation to be paid at check out all your efforts will be after the fact.  If patients are walking out expecting a bill in the mail you are creating the problem.

Regardless of your practices efficacy inevitably you will have A.R on your books.  If you are outside your comfort zone it may make sense to hire a company to help you with these balances.  

Here are some prudent questions to ask a potential partner.  Keep in mind the answers are not necessarily definitive but knowing may be sufficient in your evaluation.

  • What states are they licensed or bonded?  Knowing this will help you determine if their geographical coverage is sufficient.  If your collection company is not authorized to collect in a neighboring state that can be damaging.  Going with a nationwide company like mine, ameliorates this problem.
  • Do they have a proven process? Do they show you what is communicated to your patients? If they are vague they may be “winging it” and this can be a liability as we are all human.  Ultimately, how they communicate with your patient is a direct reflection of your values. The last thing you want is for your patients to leave negative reviews if they are treated unfairly.
  • How is the company compensated?  Are they working strictly on a commission basis? If so, it may be initially attractive however, there is no promise for performance from either party which often leads to disappointment.  Also, if they are working with a large client with high volume and large balances whose accounts are they going to call first? Skimming is a big problem in our industry, its nothing malicious it just makes good business sense. Dental patient balances are generally considered smaller from our perspective.
  • Technology.  Do they integrate with your software? How do you get them data? Are they HIPAA complaint? If you have substantial AR not only not only will your staff resent you from having to do laborious data entry, the reality is it just won’t get done.  Look for a partner that can seamlessly synch up with your practice management software, if you want to see this done let me know, we can do it in about 15 minutes.
  • Do they specialize in the dental field? If they work in other industries how comprehensively can they understand your business?  I take pride in the fact, that I specialize in working with dental practices it’s what I am passionate and is my core competency.
  • Are their callers located in the U.S. or over overseas? Are you willing to allow your patients to be called from someone in another country for cost savings?  Cost is important, but customer service, public perception and value is another.
  • Do they report to the credit bureau? Many collection companies insinuate but do not follow through.  Why is it that every financial company reports when a debt is unpaid but most often dental practices do not?
  • Does the company offer first party billing solutions? Will they work as an extension of your practice like a virtual assistant to your team?  If you can get the majority of your accounts to pay before 90 days you reduce the problem of having to turn people over to “collections” and the patient is more likely to stay loyal to your practice.

I hope this article has been helpful if you are considering hiring a collection agency.  If you need further guidance please do not hesitate to reach out to me. Sincerely, Andy

 

Andy Cleveland, “The Dental Accounts Receivable Ninja” has been in the Revenue cycle space for almost 20 years and has served a variety of capacities. He started working with dental practices on the collections floor motivating difficult patients to pay on everything from hygiene visits to full mouth restorations. Learning the business from the ground up he developed a proficiency in recovering lost revenues and rose to the top of his field. He realized his skill sets were better utilized working with clients so, he moved to the consulting and service side of the business where a greater impact could be made. Currently, he works with individual and group practices optimizing their patient accounts receivable process to ensure maximum profitability and efficiency, frustration reduction and patient retention. You can check him out at www.andycleveland.com. He is the creator and Sensei of www.DentalPracticeNinjas.com a free resource designed to help dentists find reputable partners to help with other crucial functions in their practices. He has been interviewed on DentalTown, is a member of The Academy Of Dental Management Consultants (ADMC), a member of American Association of Dental Office Management (AADOM), and is a speaker and networker that enjoys specializing in the dental field.

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