What has become clearer and clearer to the healthcare community is that point of service collection must be included in the metrics for a practice to achieve financial success. Healthcare plans with higher deductibles and co-pays are a reality in the roll out of new insurance plans. Some patients will only opt for high deductible hospital plans and pay for physician visits out of their pocket. What are the steps your practice can take to ensure collection of the right amounts at time of service?
1. Investigate co-pay/deductible amounts prior to appointment. For first time patients, this means collecting insurance information when they call for the appointment. Many practices with web sites have on-line forms to complete with both clinical and insurance information. Verifying the insurance information either on-line or by phone with carriers will ensure shorter time at check-in windows. For return patients, verifying insurance should also be done to ensure accuracy.
2. Use your appointment reminder system to prompt patients about payments due at time of service. Having clear communication with patients about the practice collection policies will eliminate doubt and patients will come prepared if they understand the expectation.
3. For larger practices, consider investment in front-end verification software. There are more and more software options to verify and document insurance specifics. Leveraging technology saves time and as it can be done in batch, can control personnel costs. Practices should explore their practice management options for verification of insurance options and implement what makes sense for their practice.
4. Ask for the payment. It's really that simple. If patients know the collection policy, understand what is owed at time of service, are regularly told what will be collected…..then all that is left is to ask for the payment. Multiple options for accepting payment need to be offered and patients will usually comply with request. For those who cannot comply, offer a financial counselor who can establish with patients a payment arrangement or referral to an agency for federal aid.
The most important part of your efforts is to develop a plan. Develop a logical system that includes insurance carriers, technology and patients to ensure the collection of owed monies at time of service.