There is no doubt that providers and staff dread looking at the “Patient Responsible” portion of their AR reports. You may even be left with beliefs that this money will never be collected, or fear losing patients over the idea of utilizing collection agencies.
At Billed Right, we have put together some strategies for you to utilize, in order to maximize on patient payment collections.
Rule #1, ground rules for “Patient Financial Responsibility” must be defined clearly to the patient and agreed upon prior to their initial encounter with the provider. Most patients will agree to pay their portion if they clearly understand ‘why’ and how the billing cycle works. Having signed agreements in their chart helps to remind them later that this was agreed upon ahead of time and they are responsible for their portion after their insurance payments come in. Notifications about patient financial responsibility should also be printed and placed throughout the clinic. Most offices place ‘All payments due at time of service’ or “accepted payment types”.
This leads us to rule #2, in how this information will be communicated to patients. Training your staff properly on what to ask, how to ask and how to collect patient balances is very important. Staff should understand that they must ask patient to pay their copay, or coinsurance, and explain clearly their deductible and eligibility benefits, if they had not obtained it from their insurance. They should also be trained in asking the right way. Instead of saying ‘Would you like to make a payment on your balance?” they should be asking “You have a balance on your account, how would you like to pay for it today”. This offers patients the perception that they must pay a portion of their bill to be seen, as it is already an aging balance. Instead of using a “yes/no” question, which will result in a “NO”, use open-ended questions for better outcomes.
Rule #3, Ensure that patient information is accurate in their chart. Patient address and phone number should be verified at every visit. If statements are returned to your practice, staff should call the patient and confirm address before second dispatch of statement. Also remember that missing digits on patient addresses may lead to returned statements. Therefore, it is important to train your staff into double checking before patients leave your office.
Rule #4, staff should also know how to ‘read’ patient responsible AR aging brackets and understand their Practice Management and what information it provides. If patients owe you a huge balance and continue to see you, you MUST request that they pay a portion of their bill before they are seen. You should still keep your relationship with the patient and ask in a non-intimidating way. Assigning one of your staff members as ‘financial advisor’ may also help to set patients on small payment plans. Remember to be nice to your patients and empathize with their financial situation. For those who continue to see you and not pay off their large balances, reminders and warnings on statements would be best to utilize, followed by utilizing use of a collection agency.
Rule #5, work proactively with your staff on your AR balances and assess improvements over time. By looking at declining trends in your patient AR, you will come to know which methods work best for you and your patient population. Work on large balances first and continue to work on balances even of small value. Remember that every dollar will add up and dramatically reduce the number of delinquent accounts in your billing.
Rule #6, once you start working, don’t stop! Often practices find that they have collected a fair amount of their patient AR, and then they give up. Look at your AR list on a weekly basis and start out with old AR and work your way up to current AR of 60 days. Reviewing these brackets should be done on a weekly basis with staff and provider. Although these strategies may be already implemented by your staff, it is crucial to continue to monitor progress and suggest new ways to maximize on collecting patient payments.