May. 06, 2015
By: Karen Cooper, MBA
Collections isn’t something that only happens on the backend of the billing process. It starts by properly conveying your policies and expectations in advance to both patients and staff. The following are proven methods you can implement in your practice to improve your patient collections at little or no cost.
Office Visits – Front Desk Responsibilities
1) It’s vital for patients to understand and acknowledge in writing that they are personally responsible for any charges not covered by insurance. Requiring them to sign your financial policy at every visit, not just the first visit, will remind them of their obligations. This should reduce the number of patients who have the attitude that their insurance made a mistake and it’s therefore not their problem.
2) Collecting co-pays at the time of visit is vital, but what does your staff do when a patient says they didn’t bring any form of payment? Turning the patient away is costly both in terms of a wasted appointment slot as well as the potential loss of that patient’s future revenue. Instead, train your staff to introduce themselves by first name, making a personal connection, and then hand the patient a pre-addressed envelope to remit funds when they get home. For example, “My name is Karen and I’ve written my name on this envelope along with our address. As soon as you get home today, please put your check in this envelope and mail it back to my attention as I will be keeping an eye out for it.”
Statements – What to include and not include
3) A phone number may seem obvious, but some bills do not show one. That could delay payment by making it more difficult for a patient to call if they want to set up a payment plan or ask a question about their bill. If a patient has to take the time to look up your phone number, they may put off payment until later.
4) A specific due date is important to include on the bill. Bills simply showing a date it was generated will imply that payment is due whenever the patient feels like paying.
5) Are penalties specified for violating terms? Is there any consequence to paying late? Why not include a late charge in order to give your bill priority over other bills which don’t incur penalties? A flat late fee is much easier to manage than a percentage of balance.
6) The use of aging boxes on statements which show 30, 60, 90, etc balances conveys exactly the opposite of what you want to convey. It shows an expectation of patients’ balances to age and a provision for that is right on their statement. What you really want to convey is an expectation of getting paid as soon as the bill is received and getting paid in full.
7) The use of colored paper for late reminders is helpful in getting patients’ attention as they stand out among the pile of white paper in a patient’s stack of bills.