The global health crisis was an unexpected catalyst that accelerated our digital transformation. From paperless forms to contactless payments and mobile check-ins, dentists have embraced new digital workflows to keep their patients and team members safe.
According to a survey by Zipwhip, 34% of businesses have implemented SMS to communicate with their customers due to the pandemic. Up to 77% of businesses indicated that they had a positive experience with customers via text and that they would continue this practice once the pandemic is over. The same survey also revealed that 46% of respondents preferred to pay businesses, including healthcare providers, via secure SMS, while 33% wanted to learn more about secure payment options.1
Further reading: How Dental Practices Can Take Advantage of Digital Payment Trends
The takeaway here is clear: our patients expect convenient, secure and user-friendly payment options. SMS payment will continue to grow in popularity. Unlike cumbersome, hard-to-access portals or slow, expensive email, SMS payment provides the convenience our busy patients crave. But SMS to Pay offers many other benefits to dental practices in addition to providing convenient service to patients. Here are the essential benefits that will help you improve your profitability by using this payment option.
Take control of your customer accounts
We all know that collecting an outstanding balance often takes weeks or months, and the longer it takes, the lower the likelihood of payment. The value of our services quickly diminishes in the eyes of some patients after the dental treatment has been provided.
Debra Engelhardt-Nash, a well-known dental consultant, says the value of every dollar owed in the past 90 days drops to 10 cents.2 The sooner you start collecting any outstanding balances after claims are settled, the more likely you are to get paid. With an SMS to pay option, you can do it as quickly as sending an SMS.
Of course, it’s much more efficient to bill a patient by SMS with just a few clicks right after posting their Explanation of Benefits (EOB) than to generate electronic or paper statements and mail them. But the most important advantage of paying by SMS is that your payment requests reach your patients immediately.
According to Techjury, Americans check their cell phones an average of 63 times a day, and the average American spends more than five hours on their cell phone a day.3 Sending payment requests via SMS ensures that your patients see them and act immediately. Unlike snail mail or email, which are often open after hours, SMS makes it easy for your patients to pay their balance through a secure and convenient link directly to their phone or call the office during business hours. of work if they have a question.
Tracking unpaid claims is also easy. Instead of waiting 30 days to see if a patient pays their balance and generating another batch of overdue statements, you can resend the payment request in days with just one click. Shortening the billing cycle allows practices to quickly identify potentially delinquent accounts without waiting 90 days to take stronger action.
Of course, you’ll save money on supplies, stamps, and expensive e-billing software, and you’ll also save the time it takes to manually bill patients each month. But the most important benefit of not carrying the balance is that you will increase your collections and enjoy better cash flow.
Save time at check-in and reduce interrupted appointments
A dental planning coordinator is like an octopus; they need eight arms to handle everything at the reception. When patients arrive or depart, the scheduling coordinator must stop what they are doing or put another patient on hold to explain charges and collect payments, not to mention times when patients show up late or “forget their wallet”. With the SMS payment option, a scheduling coordinator can send payment requests in advance with attached treatment plans at their convenience and save patients time in the office. Even when patients are late, they can receive a payment request on their phone and pay while in the chair waiting to numb instead of delaying treatment.
Paying by SMS also allows any potential confusion about the cost of treatment to be resolved in advance. Even if you explain the fees during the consultation or treatment presentation, patients may forget their financial responsibility, or their out-of-pocket costs may change as the benefits are used.
We’ve all had patients who arrived for an appointment only to cancel at the last minute because they hadn’t planned to pay.
However, when an office sends a payment request with a copy of the treatment plan attached before the visit, patients can review their treatment and financial responsibility in advance. Then they can contact the practice with any questions before their appointment, giving your practice time to complete the cancellation if the patient decides not to proceed with the treatment. The added benefit is that patients who pay in advance tend to keep their appointments. A patient ignoring your payment request can be a red flag alerting you to a possible no-show.
Making Same-Day Dentistry Possible
I love providing same day dentistry to patients. Whether it’s filling in an occasional last-minute cancellation, rushing a simple procedure from a hygiene chair, or caring for an emergency patient, adding dentistry to the schedule can dramatically increase the profitability. But adding processing to a busy schedule requires an efficient workflow to avoid pushing everyone aside.
When I recommend a treatment during a periodic hygiene examination, I often say: “Since you are already here, would you like to do it today if time permits?” Many patients are happy to avoid the trouble of an extra visit. We use our communication software, Yapi, to summon the treatment coordinator, who walks in with an iPad for the patient to review the fees and sign the consents. Afterwards, patients will pay their share of the costs directly to their phone while remaining in the dental chair. These steps do not take extra time because they can be done while the wizard is setting up the OR.
We can also drop in and collect from the operating theater for future visits, or take care of payments at the dental chair to avoid patients having to stop at reception to make payment on the way out. Patients appreciate having no other downtime and front desk team members benefit from fewer interruptions.
Whether it’s reducing the cost of collections, shortening the billing cycle, getting paid faster, reducing canceled appointments, or increasing revenue, there are many benefits for a dental practice. which integrates payment by SMS into its daily routine. Patients appreciate the convenience offered by modern technology, so there’s no reason not to start offering this payment option right away.
- Zipwhip. https://www.zipwhip.com/state-of-texting/
- Englehardt-Nash D. Clean up your debts. Dental economy. February 1, 2003. https://www.dentaleconomics.com/money/article/16387775/cleaning-up-your-receivables
- Deyan G. How much time does the average American spend on their phone in 2022? Technical Jury. Updated March 14, 2022. https://techjury.net/blog/how-much-time-does-the-average-american-spend-on-their-phone/
Editor’s note: This article originally appeared in the May 2022 print edition of Dental economy magazine. Dentists in North America can take advantage of a free print subscription. Register here.