With increasing high-deductible plans, it is inevitable that patients are facing bigger medical bills. Apparently, patients copays alone make up around 20% of doctor’s revenue, but many practices will be able to collect only 60% of copays. In addition, costly demands for meeting meaningful use requirements would again cost your practice more. While no one likes to chase patients for bills, it is important to collect this revenue.
Staying current on your patient payments is very important to run your practice smoothly. Ensuring your patients pay bills on time may require some effort and planning, but doing so will guarantee you are reimbursed for the services you provide and your practice can deliver high-quality care.
Here are a few steps healthcare practices can take to improve their collection structure and retain patients in a rapidly evolving landscape.
Front – desk is the first point of contact for your patients, so it is important to train your staff to review patient accounts when checking in a patient. Make payment reminders a part of your appointment reminders. When making a call to confirm an upcoming appointment, have them mention unpaid balance amounts and explain various payment options available. Make it clear they are expected to pay the balance when they visit the practice next time. It is better not to ask questions such as “do you want to pay your balance today”, instead ask them whether they would like to pay with a cheque or credit card. Remember, you should always be respectful and courteous to patients, no matter how many times you ought to make a call.
Always be transparent and tell your patients upfront how much the treatment is going to cost, so that they will know whether they can afford the treatment or not. See if there is any medical coverage for the patients so that you can factor all costs and tell them how much they would likely be paying out-of-pocket.
Medical billing software can expedite your payment collection processes by tracking due bills, automating late fees, and identifying patients who have outstanding bills. While purchasing billing software seems like another expense, it could save a significant amount of time for your staff and increases payment collection rate.
Patient portal makes the payment processes easier while ensuring timely bill payments by sending automatic reminders to patients. Give your patients various payment options and allow them to pay bills online. Doing so will not only help you collect payments faster but can also have more patients using your patient portal, which helps satisfy the criteria of meaningful use – a win/win.
Offering various payment plans can be a good option for patients who can’t pay their bills at once. Consider offering options such as interest-only-payments, and deferrals to patients who have larger outstanding bills.
Outline a clear billing policy and share with your patients. Make sure there are signs up around your practice clearly stating the billing policy. Make the billing policy accessible to patients from your website/portal. Any changes made to the policy should be reflected immediately and shared with your patients.
Constantly following up patients for outstanding amounts can be tiring and frustrating; in fact, can tick off your staff. Appreciating your staff for the collections and offering an incentive program can help them keep motivated.
Plan how often you should contact patients with unpaid balances. Try calling once a week instead a month. Contacting patients regularly and on a consistent basis can convince them to pay up. However, call only during business hours and be persistent and courteous always.
Tracking and managing your collection cycle continuously can drive improvements. Analyze your progress and figure out which strategies are working and which are not. Make reviewing a part of your finance meeting.
Not all these strategies work for every practice, pick the ones you feel best and implement in your practice to boost payment collections. Maintaining good relationships with patients and providing high-quality care will motivate patients to pay on time.
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