By Marchelle Cagle, CPC, CPC-I, PCS
In today’s world of healthcare,k it is estimated that $1 out of $ 4 dollars are coming from patients based on the 2010 MGMA research survey printed in the Connexion April 2010.
This is startling considering the economic ups and downs we have faced as a nation the past several years. Insurance payers have increased the out of pocket expenses for the patients significantly through office copay and deductibles. It wasn’t too long ago patients paid a small office copay, then the insurance was billed and the balance was taken care of. The days of $15.00 dollar copays we as consumers complained about that now seems like a dream.
That said, there is hope with collecting patient monies up front without harming your patient relationships and increasing your patient collection revenue. In this climate of healthcare no one can afford to leave money on the table, especially that is already owed to the physician practice in the first place. Some physicians do not realize how many copays or deductibles that they have not even pursued in the past because of fear of losing patients or not having well trained staff to direct them in the right direction. This is where an attentive administrator can help, while our physicians continue to treat patients without worries of financial burdens.
There are some simple and inexpensive processes to put into place that patients and staff can live with.
1. Training, Training and more Training with the staff responsible for collection patient past due balances, copays, or deductibles prior to seeing the physician.
2. Most of the time patients will pay their uncollected monies just by having good information readily available stating when and why they have a balance especially after they have paid previous copay. Remember patients also get a copy of the insurance carriers “Explanation of Benefits” that details their responsibility if a balance is outstanding left for the patient to pay.
3. Easy to read patient financial responsibility policies given at the very start of this physician/patient relationship so there are no surprises for the patients.
4. Technology can be your best friend with online payment software for check or credit card transactions. It is a must to offer different options for patients to pay their bills whether in person, mail, or online.
5. Strong tracking systems in whatever practice management software that is used in your practice that keeps this process timely and keeps this process current. Try to keep your A/R days 35 days or less so that is much easier to collect patient monies in a timely fashion.
6. Give patients options when they have fallen on hard times for instance give discounts for paying the majority of their bill by credit card over the telephone.
Respect and courtesy go a long way when handling these matters with your patients and “Honesty”. Your physicians won’t be disappointed either when their patient collection revenue increases.