Patient payments, long a sore spot for providers, are becoming increasingly important as more patients move to high-deductible plans. Here are six ways to ease the pain.
Make it easy for patients to provide information. For collections and medical billing, the more information you have on a patient, the better. So think carefully about how you collect it. For example, patients are more likely to provide detailed information sitting at home with access to their documents than in your office. Consider setting up a package of materials that can be sent (via email or mail based on patient preference) prior to the visit. The patient won’t feel rushed, so you’re more likely to receive a complete form, including:
- Full name, address, and date of birth
- Social security
- Telephone numbers
- Patient’s and spouse’s employment information
- Full insurance information
- Email address and permission to email
- Emergency contact
Make it easy for patients to pay. For starters, accept all forms of payment, including health savings account cards. Then think out of the box—consider credit card storage for frequent patients (they may appreciate the convenience) and online payment portal for patients without a checkbook or credit card (many younger people use only a debit card). Also consider a small discount for payment in full at the time of the visit. Finally, establish payment plans for those having difficulty paying their bill. You may want to set the plan up in advance for patients with no insurance or high deductibles rather than waiting for them to fall behind on payments.
Clearly communicate your expectations. Have a written financial policy that’s posted on your website and given to patients. Patients should understand that they must cover co-pays and known deductibles at the time of service. Be prepared to reschedule patients if they are unable to pay, but ensure that exceptions are made for emergencies.
Don’t be afraid to have a conversation about money. Collections is a distasteful part of being in business and tends to be far outside providers’ wheelhouse. Work with your staffers to ease their discomfort—some will need to ask for balance payments when patients check in; others will need to make collection calls. Those calls should follow a carefully written script so the patient understands the amount owed and why, the availability of a payment plan, and the consequences of non-payment (a collections agency).
Have a plan for procedures. Prior to a planned procedure, consider collecting a deposit and setting up automatic installment payments from a checking account or credit card for the balance.
Be proactive about collections. The longer you wait, the less chance you have to collect. You need a comprehensive plan that includes a series of letters and calls to patients followed by sending the bill to a collection agency.
Last Updated on March 17, 2014