11 Aug 8 Collection Techniques to Increase Patient Payments
According to the American Medical Association, the average physician spends as much as 12 percent of his/her gross revenue on processing medical billing claims and collecting monies owed. However, there are ways to reduce these costs, be more efficient, and collect payments quicker. To help with payment collections, the AMA offers a Point-of-Care Pricing Toolkit on their website.
The healthcare environment is ever-changing. Now we deal with high unemployment, high deductible insurance plans, reduced fees, and increased healthcare costs. All of these components contribute to the industry-wide reduction in medical practice revenue.
It is up to the physician to make adjustments to procedures and services so the practice can withstand economic difficulties and healthcare changes. By using these techniques, the medical office staff and physician can accelerate cash flow and reduce the amount of cost for collection procedures.
1. Include all Office Staff
The patient’s services involve numerous office personnel from the front desk receptionist to medical billers to physicians. All people are involved in maintaining a healthy cash flow for the practice. For this reason, all staff must understand why it is necessary to collect payment at the time of service, as well as ways to decrease the cost of collecting balances and accelerating the revenue cycle.
2. Collect at the Time of Service
The AMA specifies that approximately half of efficient practices collect more than 90 percent of patient payments at the time of service. By doing this, there is reduction in patient statement fees, collection agency charges, and accounts receivable totals. For effective increase of visit time collections, the practice must institute a series of methods and policies, and the office manager must assure that they are consistently implemented and followed.
3. Be the Healer not the Collector
The physician should not be the one to discuss payment with the patient. This responsibility is for the office staff and office manager who oversees authorizing payment arrangements. Providers should direct each patient to the front desk for these matters. The front desk personnel should also not discuss payment in front of other patients. If there are problems, the office manager should be consulted.
One effective approach to payment and collection methods is to use a scripted approach when a patient asks a particular question concerning fees or attempts to negotiate payment plans. The physician should say, “Please discuss this matter with my office staff, as they will be happy to assist you.” Always use a friendly tone and end with a smile or handshake. This approach can help the physician distance himself/herself from the payment process and function as the healer rather than the bill collector.
4. Prepare the Staff
The office personnel must be prepared to request and obtain payment from the patient in the office. When staff members are adequately trained, they are much better with collections. The office personnel can use a scripted approach, such as saying, “Your fee today is $75.00. Would you like to pay for that with debit card, credit card, cash, or check?” Patients who have outstanding balances from previous visits should meet with the office manager to make payment arrangements.
5. Keep a Promise of Payment Log
A promise of payment log is used for patients who do not pay at the time of service, or for those who owe outstanding balances. This log will contain their name, phone number, date of service, and amount owed. Also, it should contain a signature and contract that specifies promise to pay the balance.
6. Post Collection Policies
Many physician offices have collection policies posted at the reception desk or in the reception area. This allows the patient to see that the rules apply to everyone and that a policy for payment is in place.
7. Set Guidelines for Acceptable Payment Arrangements
The office staff members responsible for collections to meet with the physician(s) to briefly discuss account status of each scheduled patient. This can be done daily to set clear expectations about acceptable payment arrangements for each patient so the staff will be prepared to handle negotiations. The provider should voice any concerns regarding special situations and circumstances.
8. Use Eligibility Verification Software
A good way to estimate the patient’s financial responsibility is to use the eligibility verification software to determine what the patient’s copay is for same day collection. This saves time for both the office manager and medical biller.