Today, patients are responsible for much larger portions of their medical bills. Copayments are on the rise, as are coinsurance and deductibles. It’s not a stretch to say that patients’ financial responsibility is the largest it’s been since medical insurance came onto the scene in the mid-20th Century. If you’re relying solely on your business office to respond to this trend, you won’t be successful. Your patients are your worst payers – and asking them for money long after the fact will only result in higher postage costs and ballooning accounts receivable. Engaging your front office to perform time-of-service collections is essential for financial success.
Therefore, it’s an opportune time to execute these strategies used by medical practices that are successfully dealing with today’s reimbursement environment:
Set expectations. Develop a financial policy to distribute to patients when they arrive; make it available on your website, too. Hang tasteful but clear signage in the front office. Don’t beat around the bush by printing signs that say, “Our Practice Expects You to Pay Your Copayment.” Instead, be direct with signs that read, “Your Insurance Company Requires You to Pay Your Copayment.” Send the message professionally, but make it clear that you expect to receive payment at the time of service.
Know how to ask. There is an art to collections, and a large part is knowing how to ask for money. Instruct your staff to stop asking patients, “Would you like to pay?” Replace that request with “How would you like to pay today?” As they ask for payment, staff must make eye contact with the patient (or guarantor) and use his/her name during the conversation. Writing out the receipt while asking the question is a great tactic because it sends the message to patients that your practice expects payment.
Don’t forget the balance. Time-of-service collections include the amount owed for that particular visit – and that which is outstanding from a prior encounter. Don’t hold yourself to collecting past-due balances – ask for all balances, regardless of age. Print a statement for all patients at check out that reflects any payments they have made as well as the balance due. Giving these statements to patients at check-out is not only free (other than the cost of the paper), but it reinforces to them your expectations of getting paid. It also eliminates the excuse patients so often give to your business office: “I never received a statement.”