$65 billion in medical debt went uncollected in 2010. How much of that affected your practice?
In our last post, we discussed 3 tips for collecting outstanding medical bills: setting clear expectations up front with patients, verifying insurance, and requesting payment at the time of service. In this post, we’ll talk about a couple more important principles to improve your practice’s collections success.
Make it Easy to Pay.
The more ways your client can pay their portion, the more likely they are to do so, so make it easy. Cash, check, and credit/debit card should all be acceptable ways to pay in the office. Consumers are also increasingly accustomed to paying online, so be sure that’s an option.
Don’t make the patient guess about whether they should pay at the time of service and how much. Staff should be comfortable requesting payment at the time of service, and even such subtleties as asking a patient how they would like to pay (versus whether they’d like to pay) can make a difference in collection rates. If a client is to receive a bill after the time of service, be sure it outlines the next steps clearly – exactly how much is due when and how can they pay?
Another great way to make it easy on your clients is by offering an automatic payment plan for large balances. As much as possible should still be collected while the client is in the office, but for the remainder, use a system that is PCI certified and HIPAA compliant, securely stores payment information, and processes payments automatically on the dates your client has agreed to in their payment plan. Automatic payments are the most likely way to ensure the full balance is collected.
Focus on Staff.
A well-trained staff may be your biggest asset toward improved collections. Staff members should be prepared to discuss payment at appropriate points in the course of care and be able to answer patients’ questions about what they owe.
To create more commitment, develop a sense of team responsibility and give incentives to collect. If staff members aren’t asking for payment at the time of service, establish graduated expectations for improvement over a specific period. Show staff members the effect of uncollected payments on the practice. Provide them with sample scripts and talking points on how to collect compassionately and practically.
Monitor performance each week and share the results. Indicators to watch include up-front collection percentage, gross collection percentage, total accounts receivable, and number of days in accounts receivable.
Some practices offer bonuses when staff members hit certain targets. The reward might be a set dollar amount, salary percentage, or portion of above-goal collections. Even small rewards to recognize staff efforts, like $5 gift cards, can go a long way toward incentivizing collections.
Remember, a patient-friendly experience begins the moment the patient walks into your practice. With more transparent, patient-friendly billing processes in place, significant savings in administrative costs from inefficient processing and collections can be achieved, thus cutting out a tremendous amount of uncollected patient debt.
So now you’re setting clear expectations with your patients, verifying their insurance is in place, requesting payment at the time of service, making it very easy for them to pay in a variety of ways, ensuring your staff is aware of the importance of collecting, equipping them with good tools, and recognizing their efforts to collect. All of that adds up to a more positive patient experience, a more cost-effective workflow within your office, and great improvements in the financial health of your practice!