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Prepare for Financial Consultation Success

April 20, 2023 309

Developing the role of the financial coordinator and hiring the right personality for the position is the first step to success with your practice’s financial consultation process. However, personality and skill alone will not allow your financial coordinator to finish out the relay and make it a win for both your patients and your team. To provide the best possible patient education and service, as well as convey the patient’s financial obligations to the practice, the following steps should be taken to prepare for the financial consultation.

Documentation and Forms Necessary for the Financial Consultation

In most practices, the financial consultation and process seem to be where the most confusion and misunderstanding occur. To eliminate confusion and help patients understand their financial responsibilities in your practice, the following forms and documentation are necessary:

  • Financial consent form. This form is a general acknowledgment of the practice’s financial policies for all patients to sign. It can be included as part of your new patient paperwork and may even be combined with other practice policies such as your cancellation policy, scheduling guidelines, emergency contact information or part of your financial agreement. The consent should state the practice’s policy for billing, collections, dental benefit plan filing, and patient’s responsibilities and explain how the practice handles delinquent accounts and/or noncompliant patients (i.e., collections agency, reporting to the credit bureau, etc.)
  • A signed copy of the consent form should be provided to the patient or responsible party.
  • Financial agreement. This form is an agreement between the practice and an individual patient regarding the specific financial arrangement made for that patient’s treatment plan. The financial agreement should be signed by both parties and specifically state the financial plan and dollar amount both parties agree to abide by. The agreement should identify whether the patient will be maximizing any dental benefits and preferably provide an estimate of the dental benefit plan’s portion (note on the agreement that it is just an estimate, and the patient is ultimately responsible for payment). The agreement should also indicate whether the patient will be utilizing any third-party financing or other payment plan options offered by the practice.
  • Dental practices are required by law to have patients sign a “Credit for Dental Services Notice” (sample form is available on when choosing to utilize third-party financing for dental treatment. CDA recommends practices do not offer credit products to patients while the patient is under the influence of general anesthesia, conscious sedation, or nitrous oxide. 
  • An expiration date should be indicated, typically 30–60 days from the date of the financial consultation.  
  • The agreement should clearly state when payment is due. If the agreement includes a deposit, state when the deposit is due (typically the day the agreement is signed or at the least before the day of treatment). If payment is due at the time of treatment, write that into the agreement and reiterate that point with the patient.
  • The patient or responsible party should receive a copy of the financial agreement for his records and a copy of the treatment plan signed by the patient/responsible party should always accompany the agreement.
  • Dental benefit breakdown. This form outlines the specific benefits available to a patient through his or her dental benefit plan. It is recommended that you contact the dental benefit plan prior to the patient’s initial consultation and complete as much of the benefit breakdown as possible. This form is a very useful tool in financial consultation, as it helps the financial coordinator share the estimated benefits available through the patient’s plan and share an estimate of the patient’s portion.
  • Credit card authorization form. This authorization form should be signed by patients who wish to authorize the automatic charge on a credit card as part of a payment plan or following the dental benefit plan reimbursement for the patient’s portion. This allows the practice to cut down on mailing billing statements monthly for extended treatment plans or following the dental benefit payment. Please Note: When making the decision on whether your practice will offer automatic credit card payment, please reference the CDA Practice Support article titled “Credit Card Security Standards” on security standards for account data protection. The Payment Card Industry Data Security Standards are not a federal or state law and compliance details and deadlines vary from merchant to merchant. CDA advises contacting your merchant card processor for specific compliance information.
  • “Walk-out” statement with financial breakdown. The “walk-out” statement is commonplace in most dental practices today, especially as more and more practices rely on the resources of their dental management software. However, before simply utilizing the standard statement generated by your management software program, make sure it is easy to read, concise and includes all the information you would want if you were a patient of record. One common mishap is forgetting to indicate when payment is due on the statement. If payment was made at the time of treatment, then indicate on the statement that payment was received in full. If the practice is filing a claim with the dental benefit plan, indicate the anticipated reimbursement and the patient’s portion with a due date.

Preparation for the Financial Consultation

Much of the preparation involved with the financial consultant will be rolled in with the new patient process. However, for existing patients with new treatment plans, it is important that the financial coordinator review the patients’ charts and be prepared.

  • Collect data. For new patients, it is important to assess any financial barriers. This information may be revealed on the initial telephone call or throughout the new patient consultation and examination. Most likely, the new patient will share any concerns or financial limitations with the front office staff or dental assistant at the new patient consultation. If any concern is expressed, staff must take note in the patient’s chart and inform the financial coordinator prior to the financial consultation.
  • Contact dental benefit plan. Complete the Dental Benefit Breakdown form for all patients who will be utilizing their dental benefits. Although it is only an estimate of coverage, it is great customer service to explain these benefits to patients in advance of treatment and include the estimate of coverage on the patient’s financial agreement. Many benefit carriers have this information housed in their online portals. You can also obtain this information from many plans via fax or email. Having this information in writing from the plan can reduce the potential of inaccurate information provided verbally by a customer service representative.
  • Prepare financial packet. For new patients, the financial information may be included in the new patient packet with all other forms and practice information. For existing patients, put together a professional folder that includes the financial consent form (if not already signed by the patient when he or she first became a patient of record), the financial agreement for this treatment plan, brochures and information on third-party financing or any other financial options offered in the practice and have available the patient’s most recent dental benefit breakdown.
  • Discuss patients in the morning huddle. Just as the team should review all new patients in the morning huddle, so should they review patients who may have financial limitations or concerns. It is helpful for the dental team to be aware of any patient who has shared financial challenges in the past or for new patients who expressed limitations prior to the financial consultation. The doctor and clinical team should know in advance whether a patient has concerns, as these may arise during the treatment plan discussion. The clinical team needs to be prepared to respond to the patient and assure the patient that all questions and concerns will be addressed by the financial coordinator. Furthermore, existing patients with overdue balances who are being seen in the practice that day should be discussed. These patients should be scheduled to meet with the financial coordinator and if not discussed in the morning huddle they can inadvertently be dismissed and leave after treatment without a conversation transpiring with the financial coordinator.

Although it takes time and effort to create the documentation necessary for the financial consultation, you will see a return on your investment. Most of the preparation and documentation create stronger communication regarding the practice’s financial policies and more importantly, the patient’s responsibility to those policies. When you and your staff manage patients’ expectations, the experience is more positive overall. After all, it is easier to set your practice up for financial success than it is to recover due to poor communication.

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