According to a survey conducted by GoBankingRates, 27% of respondents plan to use their 2019 tax returns toward their debt. Our experience as a billing company has proven that tax season is a great opportunity to collect overdue patient balances. While it is recommended to collect all money at the time services are rendered, we realize that isn’t always possible. Use the following 5 tips to increase your patient collections.
Checking your patient's insurance benefits BEFORE the patient is seen should be a fundamental part of your practice's administrative process. Otherwise, you run the risk of claims being denied and left unpaid. You don't always have the right to appeal or bill your patient which is why it is so important to know the patient's insurance benefits before treatment begins.
When checking benefits, be sure to ask the right questions. Here at Account Matters, we had our administrative experts come up with the top 5 questions you should be asking every time. We highly recommend sharing this information with your front desk staff to ensure they are receiving the most accurate information possible.
Let's jump right in to the 5 most important questions:
1. "What is the patient's financial responsibility?"
Informing the patient of any co-pays, deductibles or co-insurance upfront will guarantee a better patient experience. Not only will the patient know what is expected from them financially, your front desk staff will also feel more confident when asking for payment at time of service. This decreases the chance of a nagging patient balance and can reduce the number of patient statements that you need to send each month.
Routinely checking benefits can also reduce the amount of refunds to the patient or insurance company due to over-payments.
Topics: Front Desk
I have assessed hundreds of Physical Therapy private practices in my career and I could tell you hundreds of different stories but instead, I am going to tell you about some of the most common stories I hear in just about every practice I have been in.
As a billing company we estimate that at least 80% of the denials we see can be traced back to data entry/accuracy errors. These errors occur on all types of insurance claims.
Here are some examples:
The process of taking a new patient, providing services and getting paid sounds so simple. I mean, why shouldn’t it be? Why is such a simple concept so complex? It all comes down to understanding the rules and regulations of each insurance carrier, knowing how to comply and implementing operational systems that will support your ultimate goal - getting paid from insurance and patients.
There are many things a front desk must do before the patient’s information gets to the biller. This includes providing benefit checks, entering patient demographics and managing referrals and authorizations. If any of these essential functions are not done accurately and timely, major problems will arise when it comes time for the biller to submit claims and get paid right the first time.
The front desk must check each patient’s insurance benefits before their first visit. We also HIGHLY recommend that your front desk encourage the patient to check their benefits as well. This helps to avoid getting conflicting information. If there is an issue, it can be addressed immediately.
There are many easy ways to get this job done fast and correctly. In most cases you can go through the insurance portal or clearing house but there will be times when you just have to pick up the phone and call.
We have seen many denials that could have been avoided if a benefit check had been done. For example, some of these denials might include patient’s insurance was terminated, the therapist is not in network with patients carrier and the patient has no out of network benefits. If treatment begins before these issues are addressed, there is a good chance that the biller will not be able to send a successful claim and get payment for that visit.
Entering Patient Demographics
Over 92% of denials come from data-entry errors made by front desk staff. Accuracy should be the #1 goal when it comes to entering patient demographics. This includes the patient’s name, their date of birth, and their member ID. The front desk may not notice their errors but when it comes time to bill the insurance, it’s the biller who will get a denial and have to correct the mistake and rebill. This process can be time consuming, and as we all know time= money.
A good way to let the front desk know of errors they may be making is to have the biller bring all data entry errors to the person entering data so they can be more aware of where they need to pay attention.
Referrals and Authorization
Referral and authorization management is something many front desk staff handles. The front desk must pay close attention to the insurance guidelines if a referral or authorization is required before treatment. You must have the authorization/referral in-hand when the patient comes in for the first visit or the claim will deny.
Some carriers require authorization after the evaluation has been completed. They need the evaluation and the appropriate form completed in order to approve more visits. And just as important as getting what you need before the patient is seen is to make sure that if the referral or authorization is expiring and the therapist wants to continue seeing the patient, they must get that paperwork in-hand before the patient continues or again, the biller will bill the visit and get a denial for no referral or authorization on file.
Keeping track of patient’s referral and authorization expirations can be made very easy if you use the tools provided in the billing software to manage them. There are reports that will give you the patients name, number of visits approved, used and the expiration date. Run these reports frequently and make sure you always have the appropriate approvals to avoid denials.
If you want run a seamless operation, strong communication between the front desk and the biller is key. The biller must feel comfortable bringing up these issues to the front desk and the front desk staff must have a clear understanding of what they must do before the patient is seen for treatment. If you are unsure if your front desk staff, biller, therapists, or office managers are aware of these crucial processes, you should invest in training from experts.
At DMBMCSI, our patented Administrative Power Center (APC) teaches your staff “The Proven Process for Getting Paid Right the First Time” by illustrating how these roles work together starting with the patient’s first phone call to the clinic. To learn more about our APC training and how it has improved the productivity of PT, OT, and SLP clinics all around the US, visit our website.
As a consultant I am called in to practices to evaluate the billing function and to answer questions like why are we getting so many denials, why aren’t our payments consistent, how do we know we are charging correctly, are we in compliance and most of all where is my money? And this is on the heels of investing in and implementing a new billing system.
We have all read articles on choosing the right system and they all promise that you will get better payments, stay in compliance, and your ability to charge and document will be enhanced, but the truth is, in order to get paid and get paid right the first time you need a competent, well trained staff and processes in place to support your goal – payment for services rendered.