Resolution #1 Improve Patient Collections
How do you find out if payments are being requested at the patient’s visit? If you are near the check in/out window listen to your staff’s communication with the patient. Are they asking for the payment? If you have friends or colleagues that get medical services from you, ask them if the staff requested a form of payment up front. Billing staff should have a form or contract used to set up payment plans with patients (and include patient’s signature on the form). Request that the form is completed and is filed in the patient’s chart. When you are sitting down with the patient looking over their chart, that contract should be there for you to see as well. However, I advise that you NEVER discuss financials with your patients. If a patient asks you about making payments or charges say “My expertise is in patient care, if you have questions about payments or billing you should talk with my billing staff, that is their expertise.” For YOUR comfort level, always send billing inquiries to your billing staff.
Why is it best to ask the patient to pay at the visit? Everyone is more likely to pay for a service or product when asked face to face at time of service over paying a bill they receive after the fact, in the mail. A mailed statement has the chance of not actually getting to the patient. A mailed statement could get lost in the mail (insurance companies say it happens all the time and so do patients). The patient may have a new or different address that didn’t get updated with your office. The statement could easily just get thrown out with all the other junk mail too. Getting paid up front and in the office is a big money saver too. Once your staff is collecting patient payments on a regular basis there will be less statements to go out. This means a substantial savings on postage, paper, and the hourly wage you pay your staff to prepare the statements. Once your patients are aware that staff will attempt to collect payment at every visit, they will become more compliant about paying as well.
With staff checking over a patient’s AR at each visit/check in, it will be easier to manage large overdue amounts. When staff notices that the patient has a large balance, they should ask the patient for a payment. If no payment can be made, a “promise to pay” with patient signature should be made between your staff and the patient. Staff should follow up on all “promise to pays” to ensure that payment is made to the office.
It does take effort to collect on patient balances. Even offices that have not been diligent in collecting from patients in the past, can improve their patient AR by implementing the steps above. Once patients get used to the new process (which should be updated in your Policies and Procedures) it will be much easier to get patient payments in a timely manner.