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3 reasons to implement payment by text in your dental practice today

May 13, 2022
Reducing the cost of collections and broken appointments, getting paid faster, and increasing revenue are just a few of the reasons why implementing payment by text is good for your practice.

The global health crisis was an unexpected catalyst that accelerated our digital transformation. From paperless forms to contactless payments and mobile check-ins, dentists adopted new digital workflows to keep their patients and team members safe.

According to a survey by Zipwhip, 34% of businesses implemented texting to communicate with customers due to the pandemic. As many as 77% of companies indicated that they have had a positive experience with texting customers and will continue this practice once the pandemic ends. The same survey also found that 46% of surveyed individuals preferred to pay businesses, including health-care providers, via a secure text, while 33% wanted to learn more about safe payment options.1

Additional reading: How dental practices can capitalize on digital payment trends

The takeaway here is clear—our patients expect convenient, safe, and user-friendly payment options. Payment by text will continue to gain in popularity. Unlike cumbersome, difficult-to-access portals or slow and expensive snail mail, payment by text offers the convenience that our busy patients want. But text to pay offers many other benefits to dental practices beyond providing a convenient service to patients. Here are the essential benefits that will help you improve your profitability by using this payment option.

Get your accounts receivable under control

We all know that collecting an outstanding balance often takes weeks or months, and the longer it takes, the lower the probability of payment. The value of our services quickly diminishes in some patients’ eyes after dental care is delivered.

Debra Engelhardt-Nash, a well-known dental consultant, says the value of every dollar owed past 90 days drops to 10 cents.2 The sooner you start collecting any outstanding balance after claims are cleared, the more likely you will get paid. With a text-to-pay option, you can do this as quickly as sending a text message.

Of course, it’s much more efficient to bill a patient by text with just a few clicks right after posting their explanation of benefits (EOB) than it is to generate electronic or paper statements and send them through the mail. But the most significant advantage with payment by text is that your payment requests reach your patients immediately.

According to Techjury, Americans check their mobile phones on average 63 times a day, and an average American spends more than five hours on their mobile phone daily.3 Sending payment requests by text ensures that your patients see them and act on them right away. Unlike snail mail or email, which are often opened after hours, a text message makes it easy for your patients to pay their balance through a secure and convenient link right on their phone or call the office during working hours if they have a question.

Following up on unpaid requests is easy too. Instead of waiting for 30 days to see if a patient pays their balance and generating another batch of past-due statements, you can resend the payment request in a few days with just one click. Shortening the billing cycle allows practices to quickly identify potentially delinquent accounts without waiting 90 days to take firmer action.

Of course, you will save some money on supplies, stamps, and costly e-billing software, and you’ll also save the time it takes to bill patients manually every month. But the most significant benefit of not carrying the balance is that you’ll increase your collections and enjoy the better cash flow.

Save time at check-in and reduce broken appointments

A dental scheduling coordinator is like an octopus; they need eight arms to manage everything at the front desk. As patients check in or check out, the scheduling coordinator needs to stop what they are doing or put another patient on hold to explain fees and collect payments—not to mention those times when patients show up late or “forget their wallet.” With the pay-by-text option, a scheduling coordinator can send payment requests with attached treatment plans at their convenience in advance and save patients time at the office. Even when patients are running late, they can get a payment request on their phone and pay when they’re in the chair as they wait to get numb instead of delaying treatment.

Pay by text also helps solve any potential confusion about the cost of treatment in advance. Even if you explain the fees during consultation or treatment presentation, patients might forget their financial responsibility, or their out-of-pocket costs might change as benefits get used.

We’ve all had patients arrive for an appointment only to cancel at the last minute because they didn’t anticipate paying.

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 office with any questions before their appointment, allowing your office time to fill the cancellation if the patient decides not to proceed with care. The added benefit is that patients who prepay tend to keep their appointments. A patient who ignores your payment request might be a red flag that alerts you of a potential no-show.

Make same-day dentistry possible

I love offering same-day dentistry to patients. From filling an occasional last-minute cancellation to squeezing in a simple procedure from a hygiene chair to taking care of an emergency patient, adding dentistry to the schedule can significantly increase profitability. But adding treatment to a busy schedule requires an efficient workflow to avoid putting everyone behind.

When I recommend treatment during a periodic exam in hygiene, I often say: “Since you are already here, would you like to do this today if time allows?” Many patients are excited to save 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 consents. Then, patients will take care of their share of the cost right on their phone while still in the dental chair. These steps take no additional time as they can be done while the assistant sets up the operatory.

We can also present and collect in the operatory for future visits, or take care of payments in the dental chair to keep patients from having to stop by the front desk to make the payment on their way out. Patients appreciate not having another stop, and the front office team members enjoy fewer interruptions.

From reducing the cost of collections, shortening the billing cycle, getting paid faster, and reducing broken appointments to increasing revenue, there are numerous benefits for a dental practice that implements payment by text into their daily routine. Patients value the convenience that modern technology offers, so there is no reason not to start offering this payment option right away.  

References

  1. Zipwhip. https://www.zipwhip.com/state-of-texting/
  2. Englehardt-Nash D. Cleaning up your receivables. Dental Economics. February 1, 2003. https://www.dentaleconomics.com/money/article/16387775/cleaning-up-your-receivables
  3. Deyan G. How much time does the average American spend on their phone in 2022? Techjury. Updated March 14, 2022. https://techjury.net/blog/how-much-time-does-the-average-american-spend-on-their-phone/
Editor's note: This article appeared in the May 2022 print edition of Dental Economics magazine. Dentists in North America are eligible for a complimentary print subscription. Sign up here.