We talk to a lot of dentists about how things are going in their practices.
A common issue that comes up is frustration with bottlenecked tasks or processes that seem as though they’re just too cumbersome in their current format. You can spend a lot of time feeling like you’re running on a hamster wheel while overheads increase and the return just isn’t where you need it to be.
What are some common pain points and what can you do about streamlining and/or automating them? Let’s take a look:
What vital numbers should you monitor in your practice? Get our guide here.
Where to begin with insurance? It’s a huge source of frustration for most practices. In fact, we’ve directly been told by some that, “Dental insurance is ruining my life.” The administrative hours and costs can be overwhelming, all while fee suppression has become the norm—forcing private practices into diminishing returns.
Our own story with dental insurance has been checkered. We suddenly found ourselves down by one-third of our revenue when Delta Dental, the insurance company for state government workers in Illinois, announced that they would cease payment on the state-funded plan. The problem was the state wasn’t funding it, the patients were still paying their premiums, and we were still contractually obligated to see those patients and wear the costs.
Even when insurance is paying, certain issues take up a lot of time, including:
Submission and Claim Processing
Submission and claim processing often tend to be huge headaches for dental practices. The administrative time-sink required to have your people go through lengthy lists of codes, inclusions, exclusions, and instructions for how to submit claims is, quite frankly, taking up hours that could be better spent.
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Denied Claims and Writing Narratives
The agony—your administrative team spent all that time putting together the claim in the first place, only to have it denied by the insurance company or a request sent for further information.
In the latter case, your office now has to spend the time putting together a narrative to explain exactly why there is a need and a legitimate claim to be made. The advice given to many practices is simply to make that narrative as detailed as possible, but that takes up more of your time, right?
Billing Patients After Insurance Has Paid
We’ve all had this happen: The patient’s insurance company ends up paying out less than we expected in our original estimate, leaving a higher bill for the patient than they anticipated. We’re then left to explain this to the patient who is often understandably unhappy.
This can lead to an erosion of trust between the patient and the dental practice. In their mind, the practice gave them an estimate and didn’t deliver on it.
With the current system as it is, you’ll probably still be dealing with insurance frustrations in the near future, although less and less Americans actually have insurance coverage. It is estimated that roughly half of patients who have insurance now won’t have it in three years time as employers are not obligated to provide it. The problem is it’s costly and simply not accessible to many who cannot get it through an employer plan.
There is a solution that all but eliminates the pain points outlined above, though: having your own membership plans for your practice. You might think that this sounds like a lot of work and then wonder how will this help to streamline administrative frustrations.
When you set up a subscription plan through Health Assurance, there’s no filing of claims or chunks of someone’s life lost scrolling through codes, inclusions, and exclusions. Membership renewal is automatic and doesn’t require intervention from admin. When any procedure is done, you know the exact fee for the patient and there is total transparency—no more breaking of unexpected (and often unhappy) news about a bill!
Administrators love it because they can manage everything through a centralized dashboard and it’s simple to make any updates as needed. The practice is not beholden to the whims of insurance companies and neither are your patients.
There is a huge need for insurance alternatives for the large groups of underserved patients who seem only to be multiplying as time goes by and insurance becomes more difficult to manage. A proactive step to take right now would be to set up a subscription plan for your practice and avoid insurance pitfalls like:
- Low annual maximums: Many patients will only get done the maximum of what is covered by insurance, even if they need a lot of work done. This leaves them with worsening oral conditions and you become like a repair shop, with more insurance claims to file.
- Policy exclusions: It’s not always clear what is excluded when you’re filing claims. Some patients have been understandably angered when their x-rays weren’t covered for their hygiene visit.
- Long waits and misplaced claims.
It’s a win-win—you don’t deal with insurance headaches and your patients get transparency and affordability.
Keeping Patients on Active Recall
Keeping patients on active recall is another administrative challenge, often directly as a result of those insurance pitfalls we’ve already talked about.
Patients are often prone to cancelling, or simply not showing up. They lead busy lifestyles and either forget, are too busy, or they naturally want to procrastinate their dental visit because they’re unsure of the cost. Your practice misses valuable revenue too, because you can’t bill until they’ve actually been in.
First of all, you should have an automated system for appointment reminders as well as letting patients know that they are due to make a regular hygiene appointment. Where a patient needs treatment that has previously been declined, you should have automatic reminders for team members to follow up with the patient and check where they are at.
How does that take care of those patients who still don’t want to turn up, though? It doesn’t, so assuming you’re automating communication somehow, consider those reasons why they might not come in—they have no real motivation, they’re worried about cost, they’re just too busy… All of these things can be somewhat mitigated by a subscription plan.
Their prevention care is automatically prepaid through their subscription renewal payments. This may provide some impetus to turn up and use their hygiene benefit! It’s also that transparency again—they know that the visit is already covered and they won’t get an unexpected bill due to the fancies of an insurance company.
From your perspective as a practice, you don’t miss any revenue because that revenue is coming in automatically every month. It’s up to the patient to come in and use the benefit they have already paid for.
Going back to the story I briefly shared about our practice losing one-third of our revenue, we found a good solution with Health Assurance Plan that not only helped our patients but was a hit with the team. Health Assurance Plan allowed us to automate and streamline our practices, reducing time (and money!) spent on the administrative side of insurance.
Health Assurance has allowed our practice to diversify our revenue stream beyond typically insured patients. Our practice has grown in size. Our per annual average patient revenue for Health Assurance patients was 78% higher than average for all patients.
When we added software and a three-tier option for patients, our average Health Assurance per-patient revenue doubled the average.
Before Health Assurance, uninsured patients paid full a la cart fees. For those that became members, they saved an average of 34-38% on total care. While we still haven’t been paid from the state, our cash flow is stabilized by the growth of Health Assurance and we’re not relying on insurance—it just makes sense not to!
Monitor the health of your practice with these vital numbers.
There are many cumbersome aspects to running a dental practice. Unfortunately, a lot are related to a reliance on insurance companies to be transparent and timely—elements they just are not known for.
Setting up a subscription plan for your practice can be a great solution to help patients, bring in regular revenue, and cut back on valuable administrative time. Need to see more? Request a demo here today.