After years of consulting and billing, one of the hottest issues is how to improve patient collections. The responsibility of collecting patient payments is a front desk requirement. While some are great at collecting at time of service, too many find it difficult to ask for money and many do not try, even though they know the payment is the patient’s obligation.
While Account Matters, Inc. can provide training and coach front desk personnel on how to ask for payments and improve their collection rate, here are 3 things you can begin to do on your own.
1. Educate Your Staff
Educate your staff on why it is necessary to collect at time of service. For example, as a provider, it is the owners responsibility to collect a co-pay from the patient at time of service and the insurance company will pay the difference ensuring 100% of the contracted payment; patients are responsible for paying their co-insurance and/or deductible after the insurance has processed the claims and left a patient responsibility balance – if patients are still coming in for services, the front desk may be asked to collect those balances; and if patient cancels or no shows, the front desk should be collecting the fee the next time the patient comes in.
Not collecting at time of services reduces the ability to collect at all more than 50%. That’s a lot of money left on the table.
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2. Ask with Authority
Train the front desk how to ask for payments with authority. For example ask “how would you like to pay for your co-pay today? We accept cash, check or you can charge it.” This sends the message that it is a given they will and have to pay.
Do NOT ask “do you want to make a payment today?” That gives the patient a way out of paying as they can respond “oh, I can’t make it today” and you are left to say ok or start a confrontation on the issue.
Do not give in to making deals when patients ask to pay at the end of the week or the end of treatment. Let the patients know you have a policy to collect at time of service - “Our policy is at time of service, however if you want to prepay for the next few visits you can do that.” This will empower your front desk to make decisions that will guarantee payment at time of service.
3. Post Clear Signage in the Office
Be sure to post signs in the practice that state, “Payment is due at time of service.” Having signs posted will help your front desk to confidently ask for payments when the patient comes in.
Keep in mind that deductibles and co-insurance are not required to be paid upfront. The patient can wait until the claim has been processed and the insurance carrier has left a “patient balance” to be paid by the patient. You can, however, offer an option to the patient such as having them pay an amount that will help reduce the amount they may be billed later on. Once the claim is processed, then you can send the patient a statement of the balance due.
Bottom line: Set up a process and hold front desk responsible for collecting at time of service. Do not be one of the many owners who leave tons of money on the table never to be collected.