19 Jun 6 Best Practices for Collecting Patient Fees
Probably the least favorite part of any medical practice is the collection of patient fees. Creating invoices and sending billing invoices are not pleasant tasks, but they must be completed correctly and on a timely and regular basis in order to keep a medical practice in operating condition. Without the collection of funds for services provided, the organization becomes deficit in a number of different areas, which can include operating costs and even payroll funding.
To avoid the situation from escalating to this, or some other equally detrimental point, it is vital for medical care providers to understand the importance of proper billing and collection efforts. There are a number of common practices that when implemented by medical practices will ensure a positive cash flow from the collection of patient fees.
- Plan in advance. Before the first patient walks through the door, a medical practice must have reliable and sound business practices in place to collect fees from insurance companies, government agencies and direct bill to self-pay patients. This system will likely include some form of technology, whether it is a customized database or an elaborate software system. All relevant office staff should be properly trained on the billing system protocol.
- Make it plain. One of the mistakes that many medical care providers make when establishing their practice is to assume that patients will come in knowing how much an office visit costs and what their applicable co-payments or insurance deductibles are for specific procedures. This is usually not the case with most patients. Therefore, medical practitioners need to have very obvious guidelines around who is responsible for determining the amount due.
- Confirm fee schedules. Fee schedules should be clearly posted within the office and in plain view of all visitors and patients. There should also be some sort of disclaimer that fees are subject to change without prior notice and the schedule should be posted near the scheduling desk so the administrative staff can confirm the fees and answer any questions. The same fee schedule should also be included in a take home literature folder that patients receive upon their first visit to the medical practice.
- Set expectations. While the patient is still in the office, make every attempt to collect payment. Have a variety of payment options available for their convenience. If payment is not made either before or after services are rendered, explain options for paying in the future. This may include phone or internet payments as well as mailing in a check. Customers should be reminded that payments are due within a specific time frame, perhaps 15 days.
- Follow up. Send a notification to their home address with a copy of the invoice if payment is not made within 15 days. The invoice should include the agreed upon fee schedule, payment options and a friendly tone. Patients should be informed that if payment is not made within 30 days from the original due date that it could be turned over to a collection agency for further action. Many third-party agencies are available to send collection correspondence at a reduced rate, or can be paid with a commission of the total amount collected.
- Record financial transactions. All financial transactions should be accurate recorded in the appropriate accounts payable or accounts receivable software programs. If patients make a payment while in the office, they should receive a receipt while in the office. If patients make a payment over the phone or by mail, a receipt for the payment amount should promptly be sent by mail to the address of record.
A top medical billing company such as MPMR knows how to collect patient fees properly. This entails diligent follow up, persistence and professionalism when dealing with patients.