Healthcare has not yet caught up to the way most consumer transactions are made — by having patients pay at the time of purchase, treatment or service — and it is beginning to take a toll on small healthcare practices. Many are looking for ways to improve patient collections.
With the growing popularity of high deductible health plans, many patients are now responsible for 30-50% of their healthcare expenses. With a higher fiscal burden on patients, comes reduced patient collections. This means reduced business cash flow that many small healthcare practices rely on to maintain their business.
While regulations like this in healthcare have changed, the processes and policies within many healthcare offices have yet to catch up. Many are still following outdated processes and procedures that create a problem with cash flow — as many offices wait 30, 60 or 90 days for payments from patients.
Why is it getting increasingly difficult to collect? Because patients are responsible for more of their own healthcare costs than ever before and once they leave your office, the chance of them paying decreases significantly. So, as a healthcare practice, what are some ways to improve patient collections?
Implementing these four tips will help to improve patient collections:
Define Your Policy
If you do not already have a clearly defined patient payment policy, now is the time to implement one. Your patient payment policy does not need to be complicated and in fact, should be clear and simple — one page or less. It is designed to help staff and patients have a common understanding about what types of payments are due and when. It should also include what happens if payments are missed or not made at all.
Your patient payment policy should include things like:
- When payment is due
- Payment methods/types
- Whether or not your office bills insurance or if that is the patient’s responsibility
- Penalties for late payment including, interest, collections, or stopping service/treatment if there is a balance due
- What is collected at time of service and what it is applied towards (copay, coinsurance or unmet deductible expenses)
Train Your Staff
Once you have defined your patient payment policy, it will be up to your team to enforce it. This is where staff training comes into play. Train staff on the new policy and make sure they are onboard with helping to enforce it.
If needed, provide suggested ways to answer patient questions or scripts for handling common patient concerns about the policy. It will be up to your staff to then communicate the new policy to patients and help to enforce it by explaining to patients their responsibility for payment. Training your staff to communicate the policy with empathy, will help improve patient collections.
Educate Your Patients
Once you have defined your policy, be sure to take the time to enforce it. Once written, each patient should be expected to sign that they have read and understand the payment policy at the time of their next appointment.
Here are a few things you can do to help educate patients on their financial responsibility:
- Have patient sign acknowledgement of payment policy
- Help them obtain information about their coverages
- Set expectations up front of what payments are due and when
Rely On Expert Help
In addition to creating a patient payment policy, training your staff and helping to educate patients on their financial responsibility, also rely on expert help. Having a billing company on your side can help to streamline the billing process. We can help outpatient physical therapy providers improve collections, reduce claim denials and improve cash flow.
Beyond implementation of these above processes and procedures, if you need additional assistance with patient and insurance collections, we are here to help. Our experts at Contact Billing can help providers understand and navigate guidelines, rules and regulations when dealing with electronic medical records and billing. We are in the industry and know what it takes to improve patient collections.
For assistance, contact us today.