Updated: Oct 4, 2019
Once a patient receives any kind of service and then leaves the practice without making a payment, the chances of ever receiving payment in full drastically drops. The collection time becomes longer, and the idea of payment is lost. It costs your practice money.
And that's because many patients feel like they’re paying out of pocket when they show up for a visit. Revenue cycle management in healthcare is key and the best way to collect money from patients is to address any balances due at the time of service.
Gone are the days where you can send statements through the mail and you'll get a check in the mail.
Medical practices need to be more proactive to reduce their outstanding collections. Especially when considering that patients are no longer afraid to accrue medical debt and that's because many credit scoring agencies drastically reduced the impact big medical debt is reflected on a person’s credit score.
There is less incentive to pay off balances swiftly. Hiring a good medical billing company can help you aggressively pursue all underpayments but if you're not ready for that you can still maximize time of service collections and reduce bad-debt write offs with some of these tactics below.
Make Eligibility and Benefits Verification Mandatory
You can't afford to wait to make eligibility and benefits verification mandatory with every patient visit. Patients may let their coverage lapse with hopes it wouldn’t be noticed until after they received their services. Coverage for routine and preventative services may not even be covered under some new short-term health plans, and this is contributing to a lapse in patient coverage. Be sure to make verification mandatory each time a patient visits as part of your hospital policy.
Practices should not be surprised to see patient responsibility on the rise. This is the result of changes to the ACA regarding the individual mandate penalty.
Get Patients to Pay Outstanding Bills with Software
If a practice wants to successfully collect past due debt from a patient, they must embrace multiple methods of communication. No one is going to spend extra time and energy trying to pay a bill that’s difficult to pay, especially in the Bay Area. Offer as many ways as possible for your medical patients to pay bills. This will increase the likelihood that you’ll get paid, and it will make the payment process much easier for patients.
The best method is to make sure patients are able to pay all bills online. If they are used to doing so with their other bills that cover rent, utilities, etc., then they why wouldn't they expect the same with their medical bills? Try to find a software that will connect to your EHR system.
Lastly, we spoke to a practice recently that still wasn't accepting credit cart payments, don't be that practice. You'll end up paying more in the long run when having to deal with debt collections when you could have sacrificed a few dollars and offered the credit or debit payment as an option.
Make Sure the Staff is Educated
Anyone in your office can be the point of contact for a payment, so it’s important to make sure everyone's aware of common insurance terms and can easily explain them to the patient.
From our experience, patients are unfamiliar with terms like deductible or out-of-pocket maximum. Your staff members being able to explain these items confidently will help you get more payments quickly and easily. Invest in your employees.
One trick we learned is by asking patients “how” they would like to pay their balance as opposed to “if” they would like to pay their balance. This simple conversational trick gets patients to pay more often!
Set Up Payment Plans for Your Patients
Don’t be afraid to do this. Many patients cannot afford to pay off a balance in one transaction and will ask for payment plan options. If you allow your staff to set up such plans, it will foster a lot of goodwill with your patients.
Develop a clear and consistent payment plan procedure for your staff to follow, and it will help comply with all state and federal guidelines regarding debt collection. It’s not a bad idea to have a written agreement for the patient to sign when doing payment plans as well. This will provide the backup necessary should the patient decide they no longer want to follow the agreed payment plan.
If you have any questions about improving your collections procedures, or any other aspect of your practice, contact Horizon Revenue Solutions for a full complimentary practice analysis - (408) 444-8845. We serve practices in and around the San Francisco, San Jose, Walnut Creek areas.