Putting on the dreaded collections hat is a necessary evil that every medical office can relate to. You can run a tight ship, doing your very best to collect payments at the time of service, but because of the complexities of medical billing and emergent situations, there will always be times when collecting every patient's payment is an impossibility. Documenting best strategies for more expeditious patient payment practices will help the team get it done.
Ballooning receivables impact financial solvency. Past-due collections efforts put your medical practice in a defensive position. The longer an account is delinquent, the more the costs associated with it become burdensome. But collections can quickly spiral out of control if not addressed methodically and as immediately as possible.
The average American has very little money set aside to cover medical expenses. High deductible plans are putting more of a financial burden on the patient. Provider offices must remain diligent in their collections efforts to keep the practice solvent!
But medical collections is not all doom and gloom, says Lisa Maciejewski-West, CMC, CMOM, CMIS, MCS-P, founder of Gold Star Medical Business Services. Her company provides remote billing services for physicians in small to medium-sized individual and group practices.
Lisa recommends setting goals and specific timelines to ensure your office is handling overdue accounts effectively. This is so crucial to the bottom line. Here are 5 more tips and simple ideas from Lisa to help move patient collections in the right direction:
- Be proactive. I cannot emphasize this enough. Focus on complete and timely payment for services rendered. Explain all charges upfront or as early in the process as possible so the patient understands the scope of their responsibility. Make sure they read, understand, and sign your office payment policy. Collect copays at time of service.
- Be careful. It is customary to collect co-pays up front, but deductibles and coinsurance amounts may be prohibited from collections until the claim has been processed. Check each of your managed care agreements for the rules on collecting deductibles and coinsurance amounts upfront.
- Work fast. Delayed billing will almost guarantee that your provider’s bill will end up on the bottom of the stack. Whenever possible, communicate estimated charges in advance, before the patient receives the services. If you wait until after the procedure, you may have to get in line as the patient collects bills from the anesthesiologist, pathologist, facility, lab, medical devices, etc. They may be blindsided and unprepared when they realize that their single medical condition/procedure involves charges from multiple entities.
- Use technology. Auto-pay is a good, no-hassle option – a win-win proposition for you and your patients. A PCI-compliant credit and debit card processing solution is a worthwhile investment: no paper, checks, envelopes, or stamps. Statements can be delivered electronically.
- Show compassion. Your collections staff should have good communication skills and exhibit compassion when walking patients through their financial obligations. A little kindness can go a long way.
The Final Resort
When it’s necessary to hire a third-party debt collector take the time to carefully consider all options and perform the required due diligence. Gaining a solid foundation of applicable federal debt collection regulations will go a long way. This way you can keep a watchful eye to ensure they are complying with the law. Be sure to review the agency’s policies and practices before you hire it. Then, choose one that is capable of effective, efficient, and courteous collections on your medical office’s overdue accounts. Additionally, check all provided references and research any physician recommendations regarding any potential agency you are considering hiring.
Keep Your Receivables at Bay
Download the ebook Resolve Patient Collections Issues with Training & Education to learn why training your staff, patients and providers is the foundation for resolving patient collections issues in today’s medical practice.