Dental Billing Services: A Step-by-step Guide

The success and sustainability of dental practice rely comprehensively on the seamless management of financial transactions. More significantly, as the dynamic prospect of dentistry, and the industry’s continuous evolution demand higher-level capabilities of dentists to handle the process, so does the digital advancement reshaping every aspect of dental billing services like never before. The continual evolution of the industry and digitalization integration for the last decades have considerably lightened the dentistry administrative burden and streamlined every step of the process. However, navigating efficiently the nuanced steps involved in the process, the latest trends and dental billing updates and understanding the novel methods of efficient implementation of digital technologies in the process requires substantial knowledge, productive skills, and education and training to boost the efficiency and accuracy of dental billing workflow, as a determining factor of revenue cycle management within the dentistry. This comprehensive guide aims to illuminate the path to understanding in detail the step-by-step process of dental billing, addressing the professionals’ challenges, the latest trends, facts and figures shaping the financial backbone of dental practice. Join us in the information realm of dental payment procedures.

Dental Billing Services - The Current Stature

According to experts’ views, dental billing solutions have evolved in the last ten years. There have been changes in insurance claims payments and billing processes, caused by advancements in technology, evolving healthcare regulations, and an increased focus on patient-centric care. According to industry reports, the dental billing services market is projected to grow steadily, fueled by the rising demand for streamlined administrative processes within the dental practice. Some of the key innovations emerging are:
Integration of Technology and Automation - Dental billing services are increasingly integrating advanced technologies including artificial intelligence and automation, enhancing the accuracy of coding and billing and contributing to the efficiency of claim processing and submission. Some of the significant changes reported for the last decade in dental billing processing are:

  • EFTs (Electronic Funds Transfers) as the most increasingly popular way of receiving information from dental insurance companies.
  • The decreasing popularity of virtual credit cards VCCs because of the transaction fees required to use them.
  • Merchant fees for VCCs can range about from 1.5% to 3.5% and aren’t worth the costs especially in case of a higher volume of claims.
  • Some insurance payers use technology to automatically enroll you in their VCCs program even without your contact.
  • Dental billing trainers must ensure paying heed to these small changes that can make a huge impact on your practice's profitability.
  • In case of not keeping up-to-date with such modifications, your practice may lead to a number of claim denials, extra payments, and additional write-offs influencing your revenue.

Telehealth Impact - Dental practices are also influenced by the global shift toward telehealth in healthcare services. Dentists are adapting to support remote consultations and virtual care, necessitating adjustments to billing practices in alignment with telehealth regulations
Patient-Centric Billing - Dental billing efforts are placing a greater emphasis on transparent billing practices, user-friendly interfaces, and accessible financial information for patients.

Electronic Health Records in Streamlining Dental Billing Services

Dental EHRs have integrated various billing tools to manage billing cycles and ensure proper payments. After the application of a specific treatment or procedure, it benefits dentists in ways:

  • To easily present treatment costs to patients within the hospital.
  • Billers can easily process dental claims for patients if their insurance covers the treatment.
  • Your practice can acquire accuracy and faster billing turnaround time.
  • You don’t need to enter the data into different software.
  • Its built-in scrubbing and pe-check features reduce coding errors and increase payment chances.
  • You can make your front desk a cash flow-generating asset by adding payment reminders before and after the treatment.
  • Set up automated patient reminders about routine dental visits.
  • Build-in reporting tools allow you to measure financial progress and find out the improvement areas for profitability.

The Significant Challenges of Dental Billing and Suggested Solutions

Various Ways of Claim Denials

In order to make the claim considerable for payment, your practice staff must be required to send additional information. According to a 2018 DentistryIQ article covering claim denial information, at least 50% of dental claims for both basic and major services will be placed on pending status and sent back to the dental office.
Many effective methods can be used to avoid denials, claim rejections or late payments. However, digging deep into the reasons for claim issues prove to be the most effective way of making progress in the revenue. One of the surveys conducted on the reasons for claim denials are reported as follows:

  • Incorrect dental codes
  • Outdated insurance claim forms
  • Incorrect or incomplete claim information
  • Lack of reviewing patient benefits (insurance verification)
  • Unacceptable information and filling
  • Missing tooth clause
  • Contractual denials - clinical and limitation
  • Lack of explanations on claim form
  • Lack of student verification

Staff Shortages

Staffing shortages in dental billing workflow have been a significant challenge since the 2020 COVID-19 Pandemic due to economic decline. In the 2021 ADA Poll, more than 70% of dentists reported that recruitment of administrative staff was extremely challenging, and more than 50% of the practice owners highlighted the same issue in recruiting dental associates. However, hiring expert dentists having specific skills and expertise to handle the process may be profitable in terms of fewer claim denials and improving dental billing efficiency.
Furthermore, investing in automation for error-free billing will improve efficiency in case your practice has a lower rate or sufficient staff to work on dental billing effectively. Moreover, automating billing will provide you with a speedy process and claim adjudications without having to add extra staff.

A Step-by-step Guide to Dental Billing Services

Effective dental billing requires a crucial skill set and collaborative effort so that each and every step of the process is performed accurately and completely. Starting from the patient visiting your office to the claim submission and reimbursement, the dental billing cycle requires a straightforward approach and the process can be categorized into two phases: the dental patient’s life cycle and the dental claim’s lifecycle. To help you understand the complex process, here is an overview of the typical steps involved in dental billing services:

Patient Registration and Insurance Verification

  • Collect patient demographic information, including insurance details.
  • Verify patient information coverage, ensuring accuracy and completeness.

Treatment Planning

  • Develop a detailed treatment plan based on the dentist’s diagnosis.
  • Identify the procedures and services required for each patient.

Procedure Coding

  • Assign appropriate dental procedure codes to each service provided.
  • Use standardized coding systems such as Current Dental Terminology (CDT) codes.

Claim Generation

  • Create insurance claims with accurate patient and treatment information.
  • Include supporting documentation such as X-rays or treatment notes.

Claim Submission

  • Electronically submit claims to insurance carriers for processing.
  • Monitor for any errors or rejections and address them promptly.

Follow-Up on Claim Status

  • Regularly check the status of submitted claims.
  • Address any claim rejections or denials by providing additional information or corrections.

Payment Posting

  • Record payments received from insurance carriers and patients
  • Ensure that payments match the expected reimbursement amounts.

Patient Billing

  • Generate patient invoices for any remaining balances after insurance payments.
  • Provide clear and detailed statements to patients.

Accounts Receivable Management

  • Monitor and manage outstanding accounts receivable.
  • Follow up on unpaid or overdue balances.

Appeals and Resubmission

  • If a claim is denied, analyze the reason and appeal if necessary.
  • Make any required corrections and resubmit claims for reconsideration.

Reporting and Analysis

  • Generate regular reports on billing performance, claim status, and financial metrics.
  • Analyze trends and identify areas for improvement.

Compliance and Regulation Adherence

  • Stay updated on changes in dental coding, billing regulations, and insurance policies.
  • Ensure compliance with healthcare laws and regulations, including HIPAA.

Provider-Payer Communication

  • Establish effective communication with insurance providers.
  • Address any issues, inquiries, or disputes on time.

Continuous Training and Education

  • Provide ongoing staff training involved in dental billing services.
  • Stay ahead and be informed about industry best practices and advancements.

Why is Accurate Documentation Important in Dental Billing Efficiency?

To support transparency, reduce claim denials, minimizing errors in billing and promote high-quality care, proper documentation is the fundamental aspect of dental billing. Whereas, accuracy is the need of practices such as proper coding, claim submission, compliance, continuity of care, and effective communication with insurance payers.
Accurate documentation is essential to support the reimbursement process as it ensures:

  • Proper coding and billing of dental procedures
  • Supports dental office’s claims for insurance reimbursement
  • Prevent claim denials or delays due to missing information
  • Help practice avoid financial risk

Practice Compliance

Complying your dental practice with various laws, regulations, and guidelines set by the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), and the American Dental Association (ADA) is the utmost and accurate documentation ensures compliance with these regulations to ensure practice is safe from certain legal penalties, regulatory issues, or audits.

Legal Risk Management

Even if there is the risk of malpractice claims or legal issues, accurate documentation can defend that the dentists performed the service following the rules and standards of care, obtained informed consent, and recorded correct treatment to prevent dentists from any legal or financial liability.

Reviews and Audits

Accurate documentation also helps dental offices to justify services performed, charges that are billed, or demonstrate compliance with coding and billing in the event of audits or reviews conducted by insurance companies, government agencies, or regulatory bodies.

Follow the Key Considerations in Dental Billing Process

Pre-authorization, A Crucial Step of the Process - Obtain pre-authorization in case of uncertainty about the insurance reimbursement for a procedure. It will protect both you and the patient from unexpected costs, facilitate a clear payment plan, and is best practice for maintaining patient trust, specifically for extensive treatments or new CDT codes.

Gather Complete Patient Information - Collecting detailed patient information is crucial for effective billing and occurs at the initial patient contact when they schedule dental appointments. The information must be collected for example:

  • Patient’s full name
  • Contact details (phone number or address)
  • Preferred method of communication
  • Email address
  • Date of birth
  • Primary subscriber information such as employer or insurance plan
  • Insurance carrier details
  • The carrier’s provider contact number
  • Patient’s insurance ID number

Dental Procedures and Insurance Information Documentation - A designated dental care team member documents patient procedures and assigns codes during appointments. Administrative staff ensure thorough documentation, review, and electronic signing by the provider within dental software. Daily sign-off on the day sheet is recommended to ensure accurate representation of treatment in the software and on the patient's ledger for billing.

Filing and Monitoring Claims within the Associated Documents - You can use the data stored in the software to generate, consolidate, and file insurance claims. The claims will include procedure codes executed, complete patient and insurance details, and any required supplementary materials including clinical notes, X-rays, periodontal charts, primary EOBs, narratives, intraoral photos and more.

Simplify Payment Receiving process - Considering the diversity of patient demographics, their proficiency levels of online or phone-based payments or preferences for tech savviness, you can accommodate patients with various options for timely payments.

Create a Higher ROI on your Dental Billing Services with the MedsDental Efficient Billing Process

Cease the over-expenses you will pay in acquiring a complex dental billing service. Outsourcing your dental billing to seasoned dental billing companies will yield profit as a cost-effective strategy and other benefits. The external service providers are trained and specialize in understanding the intricacies of insurance processes. MedsDental Billing has been striving for years to deliver value in billing and help top-notch dental care companies improve their revenue rates and release their staff from taking additional administrative workloads, facilitating them to turn their focus to delivering proper patient care. Our services comply with the rules and dental billing guidelines set by the healthcare regulatory bodies, specifically in the dental field. We strategize our claim management and submission swiftly and efficiently, utilizing the latest technologies and dental billing software, industry trends, and regulatory changes to optimize reimbursement for the services delivered.

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