The effective management of patient accounts is another critical element of a smooth running dental practice. The dentist must institute understandable financial policies that will guide the administrative team in managing patient accounts and inquiries. The administrative team must first gather financial information from the patient. After the dentist presents the treatment plan to the patient, the administrative assistant presents the fee information. The fees are derived from the dentist’s fee schedule, which describes the fees for all the procedures that are performed in the office.
Once the fee options have been presented, the administrative team member makes financial arrangements with the patient based on the standard of care, the office’s policies and the patient’s financial status. Financial arrangements are always made prior to the initiation of treatment. In many cases, the patient has some form of dental insurance that will reduce the cost of the dental treatment. The dental insurance typically does not cover the entire fee, and as a result the patient is responsible for the balance of the fee. The patient must pay this portion according to the previously arranged financial arrangements. With so many changes in healthcare and reimbursement schedules, it is crucial for the practice administrator to be current on plan policies and procedures.
Dental insurance is intended to increase access to dental care by reducing the cost to the patient. Nevertheless, dental insurance is usually not designed to pay the entire cost of the treatment and in most situations; the patient remains responsible for payment of a portion of the dentist’s fee.