Patient collections can be intimidating for anyone, and for a good reason. Medical payments have changed a lot over the last decade, and patients have become increasingly overwhelmed by rising care costs, including higher deductibles, increased out of pocket expenses and expensive medical bills.
The burden of expensive medical bill payments continues to fall on the patient. In return, providers must adjust their collections practices to reflect the new demands of the healthcare industry to avoid struggling with cashflow targets.
Importance of Patient Collections
A competent patient collections practice makes payment and processing easy, helping to keep received cash flow in line with your timeline projections.
An efficient collections process is built on strong communication and education, a necessity when discussing medical fees between the provider and the patient.
The Hurdles of Patient Collections
Patient collections present a challenge to healthcare providers as any delay in payments can affect cash flow and prevent a practice from running smoothly.
Studies show that if a healthcare provider’s patient collections practices don’t evolve, they will collect less than what they are owed. The percentage of payments a healthcare provider collects decreases with every day that the bill is past due.
In this current healthcare climate, if a practice can’t produce cash flow from patient collections, they won’t be able to continue to treat patients.
But how can providers adapt their patient collections to the current atmosphere?
9 Ways to Increase Patient Collections
Patient collections are key to practice efficiency, but it doesn’t have to be a hassle. Identifying areas of improvement in your collections method can help prevent errors further into the process. Establishing and adapting your practice’s policies can help improve cash flow and increase patient satisfaction. The following are ways to improve patient collections.
- Collect copays and deductibles: Collecting copays during a patient’s visit ensures that you are getting cash flow from every patient. Your practice should clearly state this policy when a patient calls to make an appointment, as well as have the policy clearly outlined on any websites or documents you may have.
- Transparency before treatment: People love surprises, but not when it comes to their healthcare bill. Ensure that the patient knows what is financially expected of them before treatment to ensure that they agree to any out-of-pocket expense they may incur. 81 percent of patients surveyed want (and need) to know how much their care will cost prior to receiving services. Check benefits and provide the patient with a payment estimation based on your practice’s individual fee schedule with the patient’s carrier and your anticipated procedure codes.
- Payment plans: Work out a reasonable payment plan with the patient’s available resources with patients who are unable to pay the requested amount. Be sensitive to the patient’s financial situation but be firm on payment dates. Ensure the payment plans meet all state and federal guidelines surrounding truth in lending laws and consumer protections. Automate the payment plan by collecting the patient’s payment method in a PCI compliant payments gateway and schedule the payments on a weekly, semimonthly, bi-weekly or monthly date. Don’t rely on the “honor” system where the patient promises you to pay by writing a manual check and never accept post-dated checks.
- Payment options: Allow a variety of payment methods, including all major card brands and virtual checks from their checking or savings account. Accept payments online, via a smartphone (76 percent of people have smartphones) and in-person, so that the patient feels able to make the payment with all the options available to them.
- Contact options: Always ensure that the contact details on file are accurate and up-to-date during the patient’s visit. Having accurate records prevents issues with patient collections in the future. Make sure you have all the appropriate consents to utilize electronic messaging via text and email. Consents must include the patient’s acknowledgment of receipt of PHI and must meet all federal and state guidelines including TCPA.
- Staff training: Train all staff members to deal with all patient collections in the same manner. Consistent procedures will prevent any issues of giving incorrect information to patients. Ensure your staff is comfortable when talking about patient finances and asking for payment.
- Auto-pay: Request patients keep a card on file that authorizes you to charge them up to a pre-set dollar amount for any post insurance adjudicated balances. Use text or email to notify them when a payment is due and afford them the opportunity to review their statement electronically prior to running the payment. This will give them the peace of mind of knowing when and why a payment will be run and help with adoption. A bill should be printed and signed by the patient before they leave the provider’s office to ensure they understand their financial obligations. This number may evolve, but at least the patient will have a figure in mind before they exit the office.
- Track collections: Adopt a system that allows you access to dashboards that can be reviewed on a weekly or monthly basis that benchmarks your performance against practice goals. Set aside time to discuss how effective the current patient collections processes and staff have performed for the practice. Tracking collection allows staff to learn to adapt the best strategy and improve the collections process.
- Incentivize staff: Offer incentives to staff for their performance of collections. Provide compensation or recognition that includes both collection measures and patient satisfaction. Believe in the fact that you can both increase collections and patient satisfaction. There are many ways that the payment collections process can be developed to improve cash flow. It may seem a daunting task for healthcare providers, but it doesn’t have to be a painful one.
The above-mentioned steps will help your practice gather revenue while providing patients with the care that they deserve, at a cost they can afford. See where you can improve collections and make those changes. Don’t let patient collections steal the focus from patient treatment.