Monday, August 18, 2014

A Very Personal Business: VetBilling.com



If your pet has ever needed surgery or emergency care, chances are you felt a knot in your stomach when you saw the vet bill.  An article on the Veterinary Information Network web site noted that between 2000 and 2013, prices for veterinary services increased 91%.  As veterinary treatment becomes more sophisticated, this trend will continue.   Now that 83% of owners consider their pets to be members of the family, they expect a level of care commensurate with that perception.  The problem is, the cost of that care is often out of reach.

Tony and Suzanne with their four-legged family members:
Sam the Schnauzer and Chase the Clydesdale/Thoroughbred cross

Suzanne Cannon knows how hard it is to choose between finances and your pet’s health.  Several years ago, her dog developed a case of pancreatitis, requiring $4,000 of emergency treatment.  Despite having pet insurance, Cannon, who was then going through a divorce, still had to pay upfront and then wait for reimbursement.  Third-party financing wasn’t an option due to her personal circumstances.  “The only thing I could do was put the entire bill on a credit card.  I maxed it out, and the interest rate was nearly 21%.  I could have made monthly payments, but outside of being approved for a loan, that wasn’t an option.”

Cannon now hopes she can give more options to other pet owners.  Along with her partner, Tony Ferraro, she helped launch VetBilling.com in 2014.  Ferraro owns Electronic Billing & Customer Support, a Timonium-based electronic payment processing firm he founded 27 years ago.  Leveraging the company’s expertise in payments and collections, Ferraro and Cannon set out to fill a gap in the veterinary industry.  Their VetBilling.com business model allows pet owners to spread veterinary costs over time by making interest-free installment payments, while enabling vets to reliably collect those payments using Electronic Billing’s secure and sophisticated payment processing infrastructure. 

Cannon says paying for vet care is a hot topic for vets and their clients – for different reasons.  Pet owners, who find vet costs overwhelming at times, are strongly in favor of more payment options.  Vets, on the other hand, hesitate to offer payments, with good reason.  “Vets absolutely want to provide the best care for their patients.  I haven’t talked to a single vet who isn’t sensitive to the issue of cost vs. care,” says Cannon.  “But they also run a business and need to protect themselves.  They don’t want to get burned by clients who don’t pay, and they don’t want the hassle of billing.  It can be an administrative nightmare.”

Cannon and Ferraro created a system that would address the needs and concerns of both parties.  The benefit to the pet owner -- having extra time to pay an expensive bill -- reduces stress and means their pet gets treatment without cost getting in the way.  For the veterinarian, worries about getting paid are reduced because VetBilling.com sets up automatic drafts from the client’s checking, savings or credit card account. The vet doesn’t have to invoice, track payments, or make uncomfortable collection calls. 

VetBilling.com also offers a credit assessment tool to help veterinary practices determine the risk involved in offering a payment plan.  The web-based application allows the vet to enter basic client data, then instantly returns a credit grade along with recommendations for a down payment and length of plan.  According to Ferraro, “we designed the system so it executes a ‘soft’ credit pull, meaning it won’t show on the client’s credit report or affect their credit score.” 

VetBilling.com won’t deny a payment plan to a client based on credit grade.  “The vet decides whether to offer a payment plan, not us,” says Ferraro.  “If a trustworthy client has fallen on hard times, and the vet wants to offer a payment plan, we won’t turn them down.  Our credit scoring system is a guideline so the vet can make an informed decision.  We won’t rule out someone who really needs a plan if the vet wants to take on that risk.”

VetBilling.com’s payment plans are offered by several veterinary clinics, including the Pet+ER, Frederick Road Veterinary Hospital, and Perry Hall Animal Hospital. Valley Veterinary Hospital in Middletown and Metropolitan Emergency Animal Clinic in Rockville, MD, offer the plans, too. 

According to Pet+ER’s Client Services Manager Mellissa Dodson, client feedback about the program has been very positive.  At Frederick Road Veterinary Hospital, owned by Drs. Dan and Lisa Zakai, clients are grateful to have a payment option that fits their budget.  “We realize that not everyone who loves their animal qualifies for a credit card, but that doesn’t mean they can’t or won’t pay,” says Dr. Lisa Zakai.  “This option allows us to be more flexible.”

For Cannon and Ferraro, who have a dog and a horse, what’s most rewarding is knowing their efforts have already made a difference.  “Our first success story came from a woman whose 5 year old dog needed emergency surgery,” shares Cannon.  “She was turned away by one vet because she didn’t qualify for financing.  She went to Frederick Road Vet, where they’d just implemented our program. They set her up on a 3 month payment plan.  Not only was her dog’s life saved, she paid off her balance early.  I have a picture of Peggy and her dog, Daisy, in my office.  It reminds me every day why we started this.  This is much more than a business  – it’s very personal to me.” 

Suzanne Cannon is Director of Marketing and Business Development for VetBilling.com.
For more information about veterinary payment plans, visit VetBilling.com on the web or call 800-766-1918 between 10 am and 6 pm Monday – Friday.

http://www.vetbilling.com


Thursday, August 7, 2014

Another reason to secure your web site


Google to reward web sites if they use the HTTPS encryption connection.



Aside from the security issue of having your web site be HTTPS (hypertext transfer protocol secure) now you want to convert from the old HTTP so you make sure your site gets top billing with Google.

HTTPS is a communication protocol for secure communication over a network especially on the internet. It works in conjunction with SSL/TLS. The main reason you want to use HTTPS is to prevent wiretapping and man in the middle attacks. It provides bi-directional encryption between you and the server where the web site resides. Which protects against eavesdropping and tampering with the communications going back and forth.

Read more on HTTPS here.


We all know that security is the number one issue facing businesses that operate on the web. However, many businesses, especially new ones do not take the time to make sure their web developer incorporates HTTPS.

If you really care about your customers you should incorporate HTTPS. The last thing you need is for someone to hack your web site and extract sensitive information. However, now you want to make the change so you keep getting traffic to your site.


Read the entire story from PC Magazine here

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Managing Veterinary Costs: Avoiding Economic Euthanasia


According to a recent article published by USA Today (June 2014), the number of pets euthanized for economic reasons is on the rise.  As the cost of veterinary treatment has increased -- primarily due to significant advances in veterinary medicine -- the ability of pet owners to pay for veterinary care has declined.

Pet Owners Fear Cost of Treatment
USA Today spoke to both veterinarians and animal shelter workers who say that the incidence of "economic euthanasia" has increased dramatically in recent years.  At one veterinary clinic in Fredericksburg, VA, the practice owner noted that two-thirds of the pets put to sleep each week are euthanized because their owners can't afford to care for them.  In one case, a dog had to be euthanized due to a salmonella infection, because his owners waited over a week to bring him to the vet.  The reason for the delay?  Fear of the cost of treatment.

Despite Increased Spending on Pets Overall, Veterinary Costs Higher Than Expected
According to the American Pet Products Association and the Humane Society of the United States, there are 83.3 million dogs and 95.6 million cats in the United States.  Their owners spent approximately $55 billion on these pets in 2013, an increase of $2 billion dollars since 2012.  Despite the willingness to spend on our pets, who in many cases are considered family members, many of us can no longer afford the significant upfront cost of veterinary care -- particularly if it involves emergency or surgical treatment.  Even routine and preventive care has become costly.  In 2011, the Bayer/Brakke Veterinary Care Usage Study found that 53% of respondents agreed with the statement, "the cost of a routine vet visit is usually much higher than I expect."

Vet Costs a Hot Topic, Even on Primetime TV
The issue of high veterinary costs is a prevalent topic these days, so much so that it has even made its way into television prime time.  On a recent episode of FX's "Married," starring Judy Greer and Nat Faxon, the plot centered around a $5,000 vet bill -- and how to pay it.  While 76% of pet owners report that they would spend "any amount necessary" to keep their pet alive, in reality most owners aren't prepared to pay for an emergency or catastrophic illness, and are devastated -- emotionally and financially -- when hit with a vet bill for thousands of dollars.  

Pet Health Care vs. Finances: Finding a Balance
Obviously the question on the minds of both pet owners and veterinarians is "how can veterinary treatment be made more affordable?"  There is a glaring gap between the level of care that owners want for their pet, and their ability to pay for that care.  From the veterinarian's point of view, it is frustrating that providing optimal care for every pet is often hampered due to the cost barrier.

There are actually several ways to address the issue of managing veterinary costs, in order to achieve a more comfortable balance between the desired level of care and pet owner finances.  The best solution is likely to be a combined strategy, in which pet owners avail themselves of all available means for cost containment.  Here are some suggestions.

Strategies for Managing Veterinary Costs

Third-party Payment Plans
When you visit your veterinary hospital, ask about the availability of third-party payment plans -- and not just financing plans, but installment payment plans in which the cost of an expensive procedure can be spread out over time.  Installment payment plans can be a better choice if you don't want a credit inquiry showing on your credit report, and you will also avoid being hit with a high interest rate if you miss a payment, or can't pay off your balance in the specified time frame.
 
Pet Insurance 
Consider buying pet insurance.  There are many plans available, and a good place to start is by asking your veterinarian for some recommendations.  You should compare plans, and consider what a policy covers.  You should also assess the affordability of the deductible and premium; the process for submitting claims; and the length of time for reimbursement.  You should also note any exclusions for preexisting conditions or specific illnesses that might not be covered. 

An excellent resource for evaluating, comparing and educating yourself about types of coverage and various plans is available at Pet Insurance UniversityDo not purchase a policy before you have visited this web site!

Wellness/Preventive Care Plans
Enroll your pet in an annual wellness plan if your vet offers one. Also known as "preventive care plans," these are typically one-year contracts that cover the cost of routine preventive care.  Plans are priced differently depending on the stage of your pet's life, or the level of services provided.  The cost of the plan can be paid in full, or in some cases, in monthly installments, making it easier to work veterinary expenses into a household budget.

Financial Assistance through Charitable Organizations
Another avenue to explore is charitable organizations dedicated to veterinary financial assistance.  Some groups provide funds for owners of specific breeds, others may offer help for particular diseases, such as cancer or cardiovascular disorders.  Still others serve pet owners in certain geographic areas.  A comprehensive list of organizations that provide veterinary financial assistance can be found on the web site VeterinaryPartner.com.  Identifying which organization you might want to use, before you need it, can help give you peace of mind.

Coupons, Discounts, Promotions
Keeping up with coupons or special offers for discounts at your vet is another way to reduce costs.  Including your veterinarian's Facebook page in your newsfeed is a good way to stay informed about marketing promotions that may benefit your bank account.  Some vets write newsletters, so subscribe if you can, and watch the mail for promotional offers that come from animal health care companies.  You may be able to redeem a coupon for heartworm medication or flea and tick preventative, among other things.

It is reasonable to expect that the cost of pet health care will continue to rise, due to continuing advances in diagnostic and therapeutic options.  With that in mind, pet owners will benefit from developing a comprehensive financial plan for managing veterinary costs.  By combining available resources (pet insurance, wellness plans, charitable funds, payment plans) instead of taking a singular approach, fewer pet owners will have to face the gut-wrenching dilemma of choosing between their pet's life and their pocketbook.  


Information you can use, brought to you by VetBilling.com...because #petsarefamilytoo!

Sources: 
USA Today, "Euthanizing pets increasing as vet costs rise," http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2014/06/07/economic-euthanasia-increases..., June 2014
MSN Money, "Is pet insurance worth the cost?" http://money.msn.com/insurance/is-pet-insurance-worth-the-cost, June 2014
VeTeam Advisor supplement, "The Cost of Pet Health Care," J. Schori, VMD, ed. May/June 2013
JAVMAnews, "Banking on wellness:  Practices try out monthly payment plans to promote preventive care,"  https://www.avma.org/News/JAVMANews/Pages/140501a.aspx?PF=1, May 2014
VIN News Service, "Veterinary nonprofits: unfair competitors or worthy charities?," http://news.vin.com/VINNews.aspx?articleId=31591  April 2014
VIN News Service, "Help exists for those struggling to pay veterinary bills," http://news.vin.com/VINNews.aspx?articleId=31027, May 2014
Pet Insurance University, http://www.pet-insurance-university.com/




www.ebcs-solutions.com/vetequine







Tuesday, May 13, 2014

About Us: Who is EBCS, and What Can We Do For Your Business?

When people ask us, "what EXACTLY do you do?"... we can now direct them to this brief video.  Here in a nutshell is an overview of our company and its history, as well as information about the services we offer and the broad range of industries we serve.  Since 1986, we've been helping businesses improve cash flow, streamline their revenue collection process, and reduce costs.  The result?  Increased profitability, improved customer retention rates, and sales growth.  How can we help your business improve its bottom line?  Call us today at 800-766-1918, we'd love to help you!
#MoreCustomers #MoreProfits #BetterCashFlow

video

Monday, May 5, 2014

When Corporate Policies & Common Sense Clash







Why does it seem that some health & fitness clubs
have no common sense?

LA Fitness in Palm Harbor, FL recently revoked the membership of a mother helping her son work out. Mom is a personal trainer, but not at this particular club, and the club has a policy that no outside trainers can train members in their club.

From a business perspective, this is a very logical policy. If the club did not have this policy, they would be opening themselves up for all kinds of legal issues, not to mention lost revenue.

However, where is the common sense here? Based on this action the club is saying no one can help anyone with their workout, except LA Fitness employees. Does LA Fitness really want to alienate their members in this way?

It is one thing to revoke the membership of an outside trainer training someone for money, but a parent helping a child? Or a friend helping another friend? Just because they have the knowledge of a personal trainer does not mean they are trying to take business away from the club.

Maybe the club should have their trainers walking the floor more often, instead of sitting behind the front desk,  talking to their friends or having their eyes glued to their smartphone.

Have some health & fitness facilities really become this customer unfriendly?

I hope not.

To see the news report, click here.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Why I Believe Passionately in the Need for Veterinary Payment Plans

The Idea Behind Low-Cost Veterinary Payment Plans
The birth of a business idea often comes about as a result of personal experience.  Perhaps you've struggled with something for which you wish you could find a solution.  For most of us, we probably have hundreds of ideas in a given day about how our lives could be easier, how tasks could be made more convenient, how money could be better spent.  Sometimes, there is one idea out of all those that persists and nags at you.  For me, that idea was how to make veterinary care more affordable for pet owners.

My $4,000 Vet Bill...
Over the past decade, I've had four dogs and four horses.  You can only imagine what I have spent on veterinary bills, and I don't regret a bit of it.  I don't have children, so for me, my dogs and horses fill that void.  Like many pet owners, I am willing to do almost anything to ensure that they have a good quality of life. However, paying for that quality of life has often been a challenge at best, and cause for sheer terror at worst.

Some years ago, I had an emergency vet bill that amounted to $4,000.  Seeing that bill was terrifying.  At the time, I was going through a difficult divorce and a job transition, and I didn't qualify for a third-party financing option.  Had I not had one credit card with a zero balance, I would not have been able to pay for my dog's treatment, which saved her life.  However, it took a very long time for me to pay that balance off, and at an outrageously high interest rate.

New Job Leads to An Opportunity to Solve a Problem
Several years after the "$4000 Vet Bill," I found myself with the opportunity to go to work for a payment processing company.  Our core business is the electronic processing of recurring payments, through automatic debits to a consumer's checking, savings, or credit card account.  We have a long history of efficiently and cost-effectively handling electronic transactions.  Nearly 27 years ago we started out by serving clients primarily in the health and fitness sector.  Recurring automatic debits are common when you join a gym, and most people are familiar with how that works.  My task when I started here was to figure out ways to expand our business to other markets beyond health and fitness, to help other businesses benefit from the electronic recurring revenue model.

While there are really countless businesses that we can help -- anyone with multiple recurring billing needs, or membership or subscription-driven businesses, there was one place I thought we could go where we could fill a void not just for the business, but for their clients as well, and that was the veterinary industry.  So I started to do some research.

Both Vets & Clients Struggle with Conversations About Cost
What I found was interesting and compelling.  Veterinarians often complained about the difficulty of discussing the cost of veterinary care with their clients.  Their clients, in turn, were anxious about that conversation, too, knowing that most veterinary clinics require payment in full at the time services are rendered.  While this is a fair expectation for the clinic -- after all, it is a business -- with the rising costs of vet care, payment in full is often difficult, if not impossible, for some clients.

3rd Party Financing Plans Not Always the Best Solution
Veterinarians have not ignored this issue by any means.  Most of them want to help their clients, and their clients' pets, any way they can.  It has become quite common for veterinary hospitals to offer third-party financing plans.  There are a number of 3rd party financing companies out there, but most vets use one in particular.  These financing plans are a great option for many clients, provided they are approved for the line of credit, and that they completely understand the terms of repayment.  The veterinarian benefits, too, because he or she gets paid in full -- albeit with a 5 to 10% fee taken off the top.  While that is quite a hefty percentage, until recently there has been no other viable alternative for vets who wish to offer their clients payment terms.  And that is where my idea came in.  I began wondering if we could set up recurring payment plans that veterinarians could offer to clients with a legitimate need for payment terms, but for whom financing wasn't an option, for whatever reason.

Of course, the perspective I had on this was primarily based on my viewpoint as a consumer of veterinary services.  It would make my life easier and give me some peace of mind knowing that I had a payment plan option that was not interest-based, and that I could pay off in equal installments over a period of a few months.  That's all well and good for me.  But there needed to be a benefit to the veterinarian as well.

The Gap Between Financed Payments and Non-Payment
From the research I've done, as well as the anecdotal evidence I've gathered by talking to vets in my area, I discovered that many of them have no alternative to offer to clients who have a large bill, and who do not qualify for financing, or do not wish to open another line of credit.  In the absence of the third-party financing option, many of these vets have set up promissory notes with clients, held credit card information and billed the card each month (which is a data security risk to the vet practice), or even held onto post-dated checks.  Other attempts to reconcile clients' payment problems include everything from having the client clean cages in the back of the hospital to finally having to offer a deep discount on services, just to get paid something. (One vet I talked to even held the title to a client's truck!)  It seemed to me that I could come up with a better, more systematic way to help these veterinarians get paid without resorting to all of these largely unsuccessful tactics.

Many months of research, both formal and informal, have resulted in the professional payment plan management package we are launching for veterinary practices.  Our program aims to create a "win-win" situation for vets and their clients, which makes me feel very good.  If I can't offer a legitimate service that will truly solve a problem, then I am not doing my job!

A Simple Solution for Filling a Void in Veterinary Payment Options
Our program really offers a simple, streamlined solution, and I'm proud of that.  What we do is make it possible for veterinary clinics to offer clients a recurring payment plan, with the payments automatically drafted from a checking, savings, or credit card account.  We offer multiple debit dates, to make it easy for the clients to budget the payments.  We also want the vet clinics to have the freedom to set up the payment plans on their terms, not a set of terms we dictate to them.  The clinic can decide the amount of time they want to offer the client to pay off their bill.  They can make this decision on a case by case basis, in which the client's need can be balanced with the clinic's need to get that revenue in the bank. 

We also wanted to make it easy for the vet practice to offer these payment plans without creating extra work for their own staff, by having to track payments and follow up in the event of a returned or declined transaction.  Our company will handle all of that on the clinic's behalf, so we can act as an extension of their "client relations department."

No Cost to the Vet Practice
Finally, we intended to offer these payment plans at no cost to the veterinary practice.  The client pays an enrollment fee, and a nominal convenience fee is added to each periodic payment, so the administrative cost is absorbed by the client instead of the vet.  The only costs for the vet are a one-time set-up fee (less than $200) for our optional Credit Score Recommendation (CSR) system, and if the vet decides to use this system, there is a fee for each credit check.

Assessing Client Credit Risk
The way the CSR system works is simple:  After accessing the system, the client's basic information is entered (name, address, SSN), submitted with the click of a button, and an instant credit decision is returned, featuring a credit letter grade (A - G), along with a recommendation for the amount of down payment to collect, and the length of payment period to offer.  We designed these results as recommendations, based on our research into typical delinquency rates for each credit grade.  The veterinary practice may choose to follow our recommendations, or not.  They are meant to be a guideline, not a fixed requirement in order to offer a payment plan.  The practice is in control of determining client eligibility for a payment plan, informed by our CSR program.

Since we are not a lending company, we do not provide payment in full upfront to the clinic.  Our system does minimize the vet's financial risk, by combining credit assessments with systematic, automatic withdrawals from the client's account.  We believe this is a beneficial option to the vet as well as the client, especially since the absence of a no-interest payment alternative can result in non-payment.

Most Clients Want to Pay and Most Vets Want to Offer Superior Care
It is truly my belief that most clients want to be able to pay their vet bill, and they will pay it, if they have a manageable way to do so.  I also believe that veterinarians are pretty awesome people in general, and that they don't want their clients to be stressed about how to pay, when they are already worried for their pet's health.  Vets want to provide the best care for the animal; clients want the best care for their beloved family member.  I passionately believe that everyone can get what they want when the financial strain is reduced for both parties.

To learn more about our payment plan management package for veterinary practices, contact me (Suzanne Cannon) between 10 am and 6 pm EST at 1-800-766-1918, ext. 106.  Alternatively you can click on our logo below.

I would welcome your comments or thoughts on this post!  Feel free to comment here, or you can e-mail me directly at suzannec@ebcs-solutions.com.  Thanks!!

https://www.facebook.com/pages/Electronic-Billing-Customer-Support/190648794326702






Thursday, April 3, 2014

Trade Journals: Helping or Hurting Readers?

Do trade journals help or hurt the health & fitness industry?


Being in the health and fitness industry for the past 27 years, I have seen a dramatic change in how the industry's trade journals have changed. Not only the reduction in the number of trade journals and/or the move to digital instead of print, but the quality of the articles.

How many trade journal articles are written by actual journalists? How many are written by people with real knowledge about the industry? How many are written by the advertisers? How many are stolen/re-posted from other news/blog sources? Have you ever tried to publish an article in one of the trade journals without having to advertise with them? How many times have you seen false information in an article? Even worse, would you even know if what you are reading is false?

Case in point, I know of a trade journal that re-posted a very inaccurate article on a health club owner, claiming that the Attorney General of that state alleged that the owner was defrauding his members. In reality, the owner was providing a much better service at a lower cost, and 99% of the members were very happy. It was later discovered that this erroneous story was nothing more than a witch hunt.  The health club owner spent tens of thousands of dollars in legal fees, to prove that he did nothing wrong and actually followed the law as it is written. The publisher of the inaccurate article could have instead investigated this case as an abuse of power by a government agency -- something that would have actually informed others in the industry, and helped them better manage and protect their businesses.

However, when this was brought to the publisher's attention, they refused to take the time to investigate, and then wrote a supposed "retraction” in their next issue. They explained that they only reprinted from another source. So instead of investigating, one false story led to another.

Here's a more personal case: I recently sent an article to two individuals at Club Industry, asking if they would be interested in publishing what I'd written, which was about health club membership pricing and annual fees. (We do not advertise in Club Industry.) Months went by with no response from either person. Then in the February 2014 edition, an article appeared with almost the exact same information. When I confronted the author of the article the response was, “My apologies, I honestly did not read your email.. but in doing a search I see your email now… I did not look at your article…” This is very hard to believe, since the article was almost a word-for-word copy of my original article. Apart from this matter, I also wonder what it says about a publication, when two staff members do not even bother to read their emails.

You tell me: here is my article I sent to Pam Kufahl and Stuart Goldman of Club Industry on November 4, 2013, and here is the Club Industry article published February 2014.

It could very well be an honest mistake on Club Industry’s part, and Club Industry does do a better job than all the other industry trade journals. However, in this day of non-investigative reporting, having advertisers write content, and re-posting articles written by others, I am left to wonder what is really going on with the trade publication industry. Are they actually helping the industry they serve? What happened to real investigative reporting that helps the industry?

Let me know your thoughts.

Payment Plans for Pearly Whites: Dental Patient Financing Options



Dental Care Crisis?
It’s no surprise that America is in a dental care crisis. According to a study done by ‘Statistics Brain’ in July 2013, nearly 50% of Americans do not see their dentist on an annual basis. At an even more alarming rate, the average time in between dentist visits has increased from one year to 3-4 years.  Why is this? Many studies have shown it is due to substantial increase in pricing and the lack of coverage by most dental insurance plans.  Many people think “Because I need this dental work, my dental insurance will pay for it!” or “My dental insurance will pay 80 percent of what I need to fix my dental problems!” When the reality is people who have “dental insurance” really only have minor dental benefits that are determined by their employer and an insurance company. A dental benefit is more like a coupon. It doesn’t pay for the entire product or service. It only pays a limited percentage, and it has a maximum it will pay each year.

Dental Costs Up, Insurance Coverage Down
According to MckinneyDentist.com, in 1972, most dental plans covered $1,000 to $1,500 per year, and most companies paid the premiums. At that time, crown fees were around $400 and insurance could, would and did pay for 80 percent. Basically, a patient could get three or four crowns a year to repair broken down, filled teeth and in a few years, their mouth didn’t need any more major work. Plus, the patient could get two cleanings a year and not even approach their insurance limits. That was a great deal for patients and dentists. Forty years later, most plans still have $1,000 to $1,500 annual limits, and many people are paying half or all of the premiums. Today’s crown prices have more than doubled so one or two crowns will basically wipe out a year’s benefit, at least. 

Consumers also believe that ‘the dentist and dental team should know what a person’s dental benefit is and what it will cover and pay, and if the insurance company doesn’t pay, it’s their problem.’ When in reality, the dental insurance contract is between the employer and employee (the patient), and the insurance company. The dentist has no influence on what “should be covered”. The employer and insurance company negotiate these things ahead of time. The dentist is caught in the middle, and the patient is left to figure out how to pay for treatment that isn’t covered.

Patient Financing with Credit Plans
In response to these circumstances, more dental practices have begun offering patient financing.  In many cases the financing is through a third party, and the benefit to the patient is obvious: they can spread their payments out over time, which eases the financial strain when it comes to costly procedures.  Some practices accept “medical credit cards,” and the patient must be approved for a credit line.  If approved – and according to some statistics, as few as 1/3 of applicants for these types of credit plans are – the patient typically has 6 to 12 months to pay off their balance in full.  The monthly payments are usually reasonable, but there is the potential for complications.  If the patient misses a single payment, or if they are unable to pay their balance in full by the end of the payment term, they may incur interest charges exceeding 25%, applied retroactively on their entire balance. 

These types of third party financing plans benefit the dentist by paying the treatment fee upfront – but the dentist has to sacrifice as much as 10% of that in order to offer the payment plan. 

Interest-Free Installment Payments
Recently, an alternative form of patient financing has become available, through third party billing companies – such as EBCS – that will electronically draft payments from the patient’s checking, savings or credit card account.  The payments are typically debited on a monthly basis, and the plans are interest-free.  In the event that a payment returns or declines, the billing company handles the contact with the patient, instead of the dentist’s office.

For the patient, breaking up the total cost of treatment into installment payments not only increases affordability, it also translates into a greater willingness to seek follow-up or elective procedures. 
For the dentist, these types of plans are available at low cost, or in some cases, no cost to the practice.  Administrative fees are passed on to the patient in the form of a modest enrollment fee, along with a few extra dollars charged for each automatic withdrawal.  Most patients are more than willing to pay these fees, which add up to a negligible percentage of their total treatment cost.   They consider it a small price to pay – literally – for the ease and convenience of a payment plan.

To minimize concerns about risk of delinquency, the dentist can also purchase a credit recommendation system that delivers instant decisioning via a soft credit pull, as well as guidelines for determining the amount of down payment and length of payment term.

As out-of-pocket dental costs rise, due to the increase in treatment fees and reduced dental coverage, it is well worth it for dental practices to consider offering patients as many flexible payment options as possible.  Patients will appreciate having choices, and dentists will realize the benefit of increased case acceptance, coupled with a reduction in delinquencies and accounts receivable.

For more information about setting up an in-house payment plan for your dental practice through EBCS, contact us:  Electronic Billing & Customer Support, 800-766-1918, Monday through Friday, 9:00 am –
6:00 pm Eastern. 

https://www.ebcs-solutions.com/

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

RIP, Microsoft XP: Don't Mourn, Just Migrate



XP support end of life, April 8th.




All good things come to an end, unfortunately. Microsoft’s XP operating system, with approximately 400 million systems still in use, will no longer be supported starting April 8, 2014.

Considering how much this has been in the news this should not be a surprise to most companies. However, for those that haven't yet made the transition may be in for a rude awakening. For companies that have not migrated to Windows 7 or 8 this transition will be expensive and complex. Because of this you can expect to see XP in use for years to come.

However, companies that do not update will be doing so at their own risk, both from a security and compliance standpoint.

1.   What does this end of life really mean?
Microsoft will no longer issue security updates for XP. 

2.   Why is this such a big deal?

Knowing how the bad guys operate, they are always looking for the path of least resistance when they launch attacks. It is believed that hackers have hoarded a number of exploits that they will launch once the XP patches stop. Also, due to how Microsoft uses shared coding between XP and newer versions of Windows, attackers will reverse engineer patches that Microsoft releases for newer Windows versions to create exploits that also work on XP.

3.   If I only have one or two XP systems in my network, am I at risk?

Yes, especially if they are connected to a network that has access to the internet. One bad apple can ruin the basket. A hacker is just looking for a way into your network and that one XP system will be their key in.




When you upgrade you must consider the following:


1.   Will my current software run on Windows 8?

2.   What will be the cost & time to upgrade your software to run on the newer platform?

3.   What will the cost be to train your staff?

4.   Will there be any downtime, loss of production?


These are expenses that many business people cannot afford immediately, but you must budget to upgrade your computer systems. The risk is too great to have your sensitive data stolen. And as we saw with the Target breach, your business may not store sensitive data, but if you communicate with another company that does, you may be at risk of a legal nightmare if a hack originates from your system.


Consider the following costs associated with a data breach:


1.   A forensic examination could cost from $150 to $275 per record stolen, or having an outside firm handle the forensics will cost you from $200 to $2,000 per hour.

2.   To notify your customers could cost from $.50 to $5.00 per customer.

3.   How will you handle the increase in customer service calls you will receive? Consider the extra labor hours and/or the cost to use a third-party call center.

4.   The cost to provide credit monitoring could be as high as $30 per customer.

5.   The cost of public relations could be as high as $214 per customer according to a 2010 Ponemon Study.

6.   The average legal defense cost could be $500,000 and the average settlement is $1 million.

7.   Consider the potential costs of regulatory proceedings, fines and penalties.

8.   After a breach, a company may be required to implement a Comprehensive Written Information Security Program.

View the entire article on Data Breach Costs here.

You be the judge. I think it is well worth it to migrate to Windows 8 no matter how much you love --  --  or depend on XP.