Any private practice physician can tell you that getting paid is often the most difficult part of running their business. A struggling economy and an increase in high-deductible health insurance plans are forcing patients to put off paying medical bills. Adding to the problem is a lack of understanding of how much of the bill the patient is responsible for and how much the insurance will cover.
The results for private practices? Wasted time. Disruption to cash flow. More bad debt on the books.
So how do you optimize your office processes to better collect patient payments? Read on for 4 tips to get your started.
Create a payment policy for your patients
Most practices don’t have policies in place to educate your patients about their responsibility for payment, which makes it difficult to collect. Make sure that your practice has a payment policy that is clearly written and easy to understand. It should include:
- Payment due at the time of service policy
- Accepted payment methods: credit card, online patient portal, various payment plans
- Payment plan options including a credit card on file (CCF) option for monthly payments
- Prompt pay incentives policy (such as taking a percentage off of the balance for patients who pay in cash at the time of service)
Your patient policy should have some legally binding language regarding billing and responsibility for payment that the patient must sign. A few things to consider:
- Acceptance of the payment policy acknowledging that they have received a copy, read it and understood it.
- Collection requirements and any responsibility for the payment of attorney fees
- Default action that may be taken in the event of nonpayment, including credit reporting
- Interest rates charged on outstanding balances
- No-show policy and potential fees that may be charged in event of a no-show
Give the policy to patients at check in and encourage your patients to read it. Every new patient check-in procedure should include a discussion of payment options and information.
Check insurance coverage before each appointment
Understanding insurance benefits and coverage can make the difference in getting paid or not, so it’s important to screen and verify coverage before the appointment.
As you know, determining coverage and submitting claims to an insurance carrier can be very complicated and time-consuming. To make the process easier, many practices are turning to practice automation software such as AdvancedMD that can automatically perform insurance verification checks.
Remind patients of outstanding balances at check in
With a payment policy and some practice, office staff can become more comfortable asking for payment at check-in. There is practice automation software that can help you with that as well. Smart practices and hospitals are now using software, such as AdvancedMD, that will check each patient’s outstanding balance and required copay.
Make a plan for payment before they leave
When patients are allowed to leave before asking for payment of any outstanding balance, the chances of collecting that money significantly diminishes. A few tips for staff:
- Ask patients how they would like to pay any balances or charges
- Discuss payment options and plans
- Encourage payment by credit card
- Tell patients about online payment options
Instituting these practices and using a world-class practice management software can help to keep your private practice financially healthy.
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