When outstanding patient balances grow out of control, your practice may feel there’s no option but to place them in the hands of a collection agency. Putting debt professionals in charge is the best way to get your payment… right? Not always. Physicians and practice managers often resort too quickly to the services of a collection agency and end up feeling the choice was a mistake. Learn why, and how, to avoid needing outside collection services – and bolster your cash flow in the process. If you place an account in the care of a collector, you’re entrusting the business to act on your behalf. With that, your reputation is at stake; the collector can easily burn your bridges with your patients, their kin, and their colleagues if it represents you poorly.
It may never be possible for your practice to collect 100% of what you’re owed from patients – especially in today’s economy – but implementing firm payment policies is the best way to avoid issues. We have suggested a few points which might help you to get more collection from patients and that is also on time for most of the times!
1. Give more payment options
Don’t restrict yourself to taking cash. Show some flexibility and give more options to patients for the mode of payment. These days, people mostly use credit and debit cards to make payments. Keep a card machine on the front desk, so that patients can make payment there and then. Some patients may insist on making the payment in cash. So you can facilitate them by having an ATM installed at your practice.
2. Create the internal financial policy
Create a financial policy for your practice and communicate it to your patients to avoid any payment confusion or discrepancies in the future. The policy should be comprehensive and address issues pertaining to your practice specialty and patients. Clearly define patient responsibilities for all non-covered services.
3. Train your staff
Invest in your front-desk staff. Educate them about ways to collect patient payments before the services. It is desirable to hire staff that is familiar with health insurance policies; otherwise train them in making collections, looking up patient payment history, and resolving payment disputes. Make sure your staff remains up to date with payer payment rule changes.
Receptionists who schedule appointments need to be trained on how to audit a patient’s account and to know when it’s time to have the patient meet with someone in the billing department. Determine the specific parameters for your staff so they can do the job you want and support each other.
4. Do your homework
Check your EHR and create a list of all the patients with huge payment Backlog. Your integrated EHR and Practice Management System should assist you in this. With good software, you can view the plan and patient balance in real-time on the scheduling screen. Make it a habit to view this information, so that you have an idea about patients lagging behind in payments; particularly for expensive procedures and services.
Collecting accurate demographic and billing information should not be limited to new patients. Update patient information and insurance information at each visit. If a staff member fails to do this, hold him accountable. You can use this chart to help your staff probe for and collect the right data when scheduling appointments, or at the beginning of each patient visit.
5. Make a follow-up strategy
Delay in follow-up will increase the chances of non-payment. As soon as the patient leaves the practice, send the bill on their patient portal. Call them up and remind them through email. Keep your options open while deciding to keep billing in-house or outsourcing it to a medical billing company.
If you don’t have enough staff or good billing expertise; outsourcing your billing might be a more cost-effective option for you. Most billing companies deal with patient payments by answering patient billing queries, following up with your patients on pending balances, and even taking them to collection agencies after your approval. At that point, you have the option to write off small balances as losses if you would rather not deal with an agency – an advisable choice in some cases.
Yet if you decide to move into debt recovery with an outside company, make sure to use a trusted, vetted agency. Ask colleagues for referrals before contracting with a debt recovery business and ensure during sign-up that they know exactly how you’d like your accounts to be handled.