Archive for the ‘Financial Arrangements’ Category

Encrypting Your Patient Identity and Health Information

Friday, April 15th, 2016

Guest post by Mark Hollis, CEO of MacPractice

In 2015 alone, the identity and health information of 35% of Americans was exposed – more than 111 Million patient records. More and more, dentists and patients are becoming aware that reported breaches like this effect them directly and can have grave consequences. If you think about it, most of us know someone who has had their personal information compromised and had to spend years recovering from a loss of their identity. Your patient’s identity theft can results in:

Fraudulent charges

Empty bank account

Lost home

Stolen Social Security benefits

Bad credit

Emotional stress, divorce, loss of business, etc.

Health care providers are required by HIPAA to protect EPHI with AES encryption ‘at rest’ on the server and backups, and on a network in the office (and between offices and over the Internet if that applies). The theft and sale of EPHI (Electronic Protected Health Information) is lucrative for thousands of hackers in places like Iran, Russia and China. No one can stop the attempts, but dentists can, at a minimum, use dental software with built-in encryption that makes EPHI indecipherable to a hacker or burglar.

A startling reality is that vendors are NOT required to provide encryption in their software. Other than MacPractice, NONE of the other leading dental vendors provide encryption in their software.

Patients are starting to ask dentists how their data is protected before providing it. In a recent survey, 50% of patients said they would leave their doctor if they were notified their data was exposed, as is required by HIPAA of all doctors who do not encrypt EPHI as well as their database password. In addition, HIPAA and States can assess millions of dollars in fines for non-compliance. This is truly a national emergency.

Encrypted software helps you avoid millions in fines for non-compliance, and qualifies you for HIPAA’s Safe Harbor. In the event of a breach, Safe Harbor can exempt you from having to send first class mail to all who are affected, notify HHS and prominent media, post a notice on your home page, and more. Practices that do not encrypt their patients’ data and report a breach rarely recover.

MacPractice encourages you to learn more about this important topic and how built-in encryption can protect you and your practice. You can download our free whitepaper, register for our encryption webinar and subscribe to our HIPAA web resource page.

MarkHollis_headshot_2014

 

For more than 30 years, Mark has been helping doctors to run their practices more efficiently, first as a practice management consultant and now as CEO of MacPractice – the leading software for doctors who prefer Apple technology. Mark has spoken at seminars, trade shows, dental schools and more than 500 small business events at Apple locations. He is an established and well-respected leader on Cloud computing, dental and medical technology and Electronic Health Records.

He can be reached at markhollis@macpractice.com

Lease or Buy…(continued)

Friday, May 15th, 2015

In the last article, the many benefits of owning your practice were explained. Here, I will highlight the second and third steps in weighing the pros and cons of whether to own or lease your commercial real estate space.

Second Step: Learn About Today’s CRE Market

Since the recent real estate downturn, individuals and businesses are more cautious about real estate investments. Prudent investors are taking steps to learn about their current market climate, ensuring the best investment for the long term.

Traditionally, real estate decisions have hinged on desirable locations. In today’s CRE market, decisions should also include timing as a key ingredient. If you can secure your mortgage at historic low rates, you pay less in interest. You can search for local CRE properties online, but you should realize that not all available properties will appear. The best choice is to work with a local commercial broker who knows your area.

Third Step: Assemble the Team

⋅Navigating the labyrinth of loan options and finding the perfect building or location can be overwhelming. No matter, whether to lease or buy, is the best  choice for your practice; plan to surround yourself with experts who can assist in making the right decision. The following is a list of experts who  specialize in these decisions:

⋅Demographic consultant: Invest in this resource to learn the composition of the area: How many dental practices exist locally? Who is your competition?  Who are your potential customers? Once armed with this information, you can embark on your search for the perfect property location.

⋅ Accountant: A certified public accountant can help determine what your practice can afford and familiarize you with tax benefits.

⋅ Commercial broker: This team member helps you locate potential properties. Find your local realtor board at www.realtor.org to choose professionals    with area expertise.

⋅ Attorney: Engage your attorney if you need help with property negotiations.

⋅ Commercial lender: This team member guides you through financing options. Your best bet is to choose a lender that specializes in dental practice    financing. A dental practice financing specialist will understand your specific needs and can dive deeper into your balance sheet to help find the best  terms. With this type of specialty lender, you might even qualify for 100% financing, which goes a long way toward making your dream a reality.

The decision to buy or lease is one of the most vital you will make as a business owner. Arm yourself with details and expert opinions to make an informed decision and get your business off to a great start.

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JP Blevins joined the Live Oak Bank team in early 2011 and initially spent much of his time educating young professionals about financing and how to best maintain and grow their business. Assisting healthcare professionals in achieving the “American Dream” of ownership, JP is a Loan Officer and General Manager working exclusively with the dental and medical community nationwide.

JP can be reached by phone at 910.796.1674, or email jp.blevins@liveoakbank.com

 

Make an Informed Decision Whether to Lease or Buy

Thursday, April 30th, 2015

Whether establishing a new dental practice or taking steps to expand your practice, as a business owner, you face difficult choices. One crucial decision is whether to invest in commercial real estate (CRE) or to lease space. Before you decide, weigh the pros and cons of a lease vs. buy, take steps to learn the current CRE climate, and surround yourself with experts who can smooth your path.

First Step: To Lease or Buy?

A lease might appeal to you if future space requirements are uncertain, or you require cash for equipment and marketing. The upside of leasing is that it typically doesn’t require a large down payment, leaving you with cash available to focus on running your practice. Plus, you don’t have property ownership and maintenance responsibilities.

Lease arrangements have one major drawback: You aren’t investing in your future. As property values increase, your landlord — not you — benefits from the property’s investment. The landlord also might limit improvements you can make to the space. Retrofitting existing space for a dental practice could cost $150,000 or more. And, once you invest in improvements, consider that this is the space that you don’t own. If you outgrow the space, you will start over in a new location, losing your initial investment in the process.

If your goals are longer term, and you wish to use your property as an asset toward future retirement, consider buying. Purchasing property sometimes requires an up-front investment, but can often be mitigated by a lender who specializes in dental financing.

For new construction or purchased CRE, your loan can be amortized over 25 years, in some cases resulting in monthly payments similar to a 10-year lease agreement. Owning your property and building gives you a blank slate. You can develop and modify space as your office changes and grows. Or, you can allocate space to lease to other tenants, which generates a new revenue stream. Another benefit is that owning CRE property comes with multiple tax benefits.

Steps two and three will be highlighted in a follow up article.

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Screenshot 2015-04-24 14.15.33

JP Blevins joined the Live Oak Bank team in early 2011 and initially spent much of his time educating young professionals about financing and how to best maintain and grow their business. Assisting healthcare professionals in achieving the “American Dream” of ownership, JP is a Loan Officer and General Manager working exclusively with the dental and medical community nationwide.

JP can be reached by phone at 910.796.1674, or email jp.blevins@liveoakbank.com

In or Out of Network

Thursday, January 3rd, 2013

When it comes to insurance, oftentimes you will hear the terms “in-network” or “out-of-network.” Dentists who are “in-network” have agreed to a personal contract with a benefit plan. These contracts have restrictions and requirements and usually dictate adherence to a reduced fee schedule. Therefore, patients who chose an “in-network” dentist typically will pay less of their own money toward treatment than those who choose an “out-of-network” dentist. In addition, an “in-network” dentist usually is paid directly from the insurer and payment is sent to the office.

 

An “out-of-network” dentist has not signed a contract with the insurer of a particular plan. However, patients may still choose that dentist and have some of their fees covered, but they may pay more out of pocket. Also, plan payment checks are usually sent to the patient, not the dentist. The plan pays the patient, and then the patient pays the dentist. Or the patient pays the dentist and is later reimbursed by the plan.

 

A dentist who decides to become “in-network” may choose to do so because a large population of patients are on the plan, because s/he likes the security of receiving payment checks directly, or because the fee schedule seems fair. A dentist may decide to stay “out-of-network” because a smaller population of patients uses a particular plan. The dentists may be content with patients receiving payment checks. Or s/he may not be comfortable with the fee schedule. Be sure you have a very clear understanding of what specifically is dictated in the contract before becoming an “in-network” dentist.

The Fee is Not ‘Bad News’

Tuesday, July 3rd, 2012

Does the cellular phone company proclaim, “Look! Bad News is Here!” when they send your bill? No. Does the grocery store clerk say to the customer, “I’m sorry Mrs. Jones, but you will have to pay for your groceries today”? Of course not. These are businesses that expect payment for goods and services delivered. And the dental office is a business where goods and services are delivered as well. Nonetheless, for some dental office employees asking for payment is practically painful.

 

Typically, employees that struggle simply aren’t sure how to broach the subject. What’s more, these employees don’t know how to emphasize the value of services provided or how to present payment options. This is where two essential tools come into play #1 – A clear yet flexible financial policy and #2 Scripts.

 

Consider incorporating the following into your financial options:

 

• Establish a relationship with a treatment financing company, such as Care Credit
• Allow patients to build a balance on their account before beginning major treatment.
• Allow patients to pay for larger cases in two or three installments over a specific period of time.
• Offer a 5% discount if the case is paid in full and will not be submitted to insurance.
• Make arrangements to bill the patient’s credit card on a recurring basis until the treatment has been paid in full. This is ideal for larger cases. Orthodontic practices often do this routinely. This system streamlines payment and posting while eliminating billing for your practice.

 

Next incorporate the use of scripts into financial discussions with patients. Scripts help staff to clearly educate patients on treatment recommended, treatment delivered, and treatment financing options that can bridge the gap between treatment diagnosed and treatment completed.

Avoid Sticky Payment Negotiations

Thursday, April 26th, 2012

“No problem, Tom. I’m sure Erin my financial coordinator can work up a little arrangement for you to pay – oh say, $50 per month?”

 

“Uhhh, how ‘bout $25, Doc?”

 

“Well, yeah sure. We’ll take care of you, Tom, you’re just like family.”

 

New dentists can find themselves in the awkward position of financial negotiations with patients, particularly when it comes to family and close friends. And that can put practice finances into jeopardy in no time. With so many things on the new dentist’s plate, it can be easy to forget that profitability and collections are the Siamese twins of dentistry. One doesn’t go anywhere without the other.

 

It’s essential that when it comes to financial plans and promises, new dentists assign this duty to a trained financial coordinator and establish a financial policy that they are comfortable with. Generally, offering patients a few payment options is most desirable rather than a laundry list of payment plans to choose from.

 

Most importantly, do not get into the habit of extending credit to patients. This will be very difficult to break as your practice grows. Rather, partner with a patient financing company, such as CareCredit.

 

Consider offering a slight adjustment in the fees for more costly procedures paid in full that are not covered by insurance, such as a 5% adjustment for procedures over $500 paid in full.

 

Require insured patients to pay a portion of their payment responsibility when services are rendered.

 

Do not accept post-dated checks.

 

Give patients the opportunity to pay in full within 30 days before assessing a financing charge on the account.

 

Sign up for an electronic billing service. And file all insurance claims electronically.

 

Interested in additional resources to help you manage the financials of your dental practice? Click Here.