10 Tips for Collecting from Patients In Private Practice
Patients are facing bigger and bigger medical bills due to the rise of high-deductible plans.
In many cases, they are not prepared to pay them. For medical practices, that means creating ways to improve your patient collections should be a top priority for 2020. When patients don’t pay, it puts your practice’s revenue cycle at risk. Patient copays alone make up roughly 20% of a doctor’s revenue.
But according to a 2010 study by the Medical Group Management Association, most physicians only collect a paltry 60% of patient copays. Once you realize your medical billing is already taking a hit, you start to understand that you can’t afford more revenue loss from a lack of patient collections. This is especially true for smaller practices with leaner budgets.
And this problem is not going anywhere anytime quickly as more and more patients will either have to pay larger co-pays per office visit or they’ll be forced to spend more out of pocket money because of their choice of policies with higher deductibles. The middle high-class is increasingly burdened by the cost of healthcare and many professionals struggle to cover what their employer’s health plan won’t.
“It’s a case of companies trying to offer workers health insurance and still generate profit,” said Eric Wright, a professor of sociology and public health at Georgia State University. “But whenever suffering goes up for the consumers across the board … it promotes a delay in care.” Or, a linger in payment. The bottom line to your bottom line is this; The days of not being affected by not collecting patient co-pays are behind us. Today’s providers need to collect every penny that is owed to them. Here are 10 ways you can improve your practice's collections in 2020.
1. Train Staff to Collect Payments
Start with your front desk staff. It’s critical they are trained to get that cash before the patient sees you. Make sure there are signs around your attendance room clearly stating your payment policy. When any member of your staff contacts patients to confirm an upcoming appointment, they should mention any balance that patient may be carrying as well as explain the various payment options available. And make sure that the staff is crystal clear that they are expected to collect payment before their next appointment. Also, give your staff scripts they can use to deal with late accounts and advise them to be kind and gentle regardless of how many times they have to contact a patient for a balance!
2. Be Transparent About Your Prices
One of the main reasons providers have a bad track record with their medical billing collections is because patients are completely blindsided by costs and have not budgeted for the expense. Always be transparent with your patients about pricing so they know whether they can afford them or not. Also, be sure to check their coverage before their appointment so you can communicate what the patient's out of pocket and deductible costs might be before they begin treatment with you.
3. Select Powerful Medical Billing Software
If you haven’t yet purchased medical billing software, you’re making things far more difficult than they need to be, unless you enjoy uphill battles. Practice management and medical billing software can streamline your entire collections process by tracking balances, identifying those patients who have fallen behind, and automating statement generation. A robust solution may come with a price tag but remember, that software will end up saving you a ton on internal time and resources as well as advance your collection rate.
4. Offer Different Payment Options
No doubt most of your patients have every desire and intention to pay, they just don't currently have the financial means to. Consider offering different payment options to those patients who have larger outstanding bills and can’t pay the full amount all at once. Options include payment plans, interest-only payments, deferral, etc.
5. Make Paying Easy
It should be fairly obvious – if you want your patients to pay their bill, you must make it as easy as possible. Your collections will increase if you offer online payment options via your website or a payment portal. Another bonus for allowing your patients to use online bill pay is that you will invite more patients to use your patient portal which will ultimately give your practice a good reputation of being easy to work with – a win/win.
6. Incentivize Your Billing Staff
Recognize that it’s not a burden for your staff to have to call patients day in and day out to collect on past-due accounts. It can be frustrating and tiring, and some staff members could eventually become unmotivated. Always show the staff your appreciation and offer an incentive program that will keep them motivated.
7. Be a Squeaky Wheel
Being a squeaky wheel generally gets you what you want, even when it comes to collecting from your patients. It’s standard to collect from patients on a monthly base, but if your staff can handle it, why not compel payment once a week. Regular and continuing contact may convince a good portion of your patients that it is, in fact, time to pay up.
8. Use USPS Address Service
Good luck collecting from patients who have relocated without providing you with a new location. For a small fee you can add “address service requested” to any bill you physically send so the patient will send you the correct address or the patient will remit payment when they receive the invoice.
9. Track and Manage Your Results
You’ll never be able to improve your medical billing collections if you don’t track and manage your results. Make it a habit and priority to review your collections every month during your financial meeting to see which methods and processes are working and which aren’t.
10. Know When It’s Time to Partner with a Medical Billing Vendor or Collections Agency
Chances are many of your unpaid invoices ultimately get sent to a third-party collection agency that takes a percentage of the payment anyway, you may want to eventually consider a third-party medical billing vendor who will work on your behalf and get you paid from everyone who owes you money. This will allow your staff to focus on the other day-to-day tasks, let you focus on your patients, all while increasing your income.
You don’t need to put all of these 10 tips into place at once. The goal is to see an incremental increase in collections. In fact, not all of these strategies are right for every practice, so be sure to test and track each to see which gives your revenue a boost.