The ability to effectively, and efficiently collect payments from patients is imperative to the robust good health of a practice.
Whether these payments come in the form of coinsurance, deductibles or copays – ensuring that such funds are obtained helps keep the accounts receivable (A/R) column at an optimum level. Many physicians might be surprised to discover that overpayments by patients and the credits due to them, can cause a host of unforeseen problems.
- Patient-physician good will is disrupted when the patient receives their explanation of benefits (EOB) statement and the amount determined to be the patient’s responsibility is less than what they were charged by the physician. Being overcharged by a physician can erode the patient’s trust in both the office’s collection practices and their perception of the physician.
- The office staff will experience a reduction in productivity as they must spend unplanned time reviewing the account of the patient in question and issue a refund check.
- The physician’s A/R amount is skewed due to the credit that is present on the patient’s account. This makes the A/R seem less than it really is.
The reality is that, given the many variables that are possible with patients these days, this will occur more than a few times over the course of an average practice. The best way to address it is to be upfront, timely, and proactive.
- Utilize a top notch EHR platform. While electronic EOBs typically trigger software to post payments to patient accounts, taking the extra step of ensuring that the patient is not due a credit helps eliminate the possibility of an overpayment.
- Contact the patient promptly. It is imperative that office staff call the patient at least by the next business day when a credit is discovered. Being frank with the patient about the situation that resulted in the double charges puts the responsibility squarely on the physician, and sets the patient at ease.
- Give the patient a choice. When a credit is on a patient’s account, offer the choice of either a credit toward a future visit or receiving a check in the mail. This gives the patient control in the situation while also acknowledging that the physician is essentially being paid twice for one service.