Patients are facing bigger and bigger medical bills due to the rise of high-deductible plans. In many cases, they’re not prepared to pay them. For medical practices, that means finding ways to improve your medical billing collections should be top priority for 2016, especially patient payments.
When patients don’t pay, it puts your practice’s revenue cycle at risk.
Patient copays alone make up roughly 20% of a doctor’s revenue. But according to a 2010 study by the Medical Group Management Association, most physicians only collect a paltry 60% of patient copays.
Once you realize your medical billing is already taking a hit, you begin to understand that you can’t afford more revenue loss from ICD-10 coding errors and Meaningful Use requirements. This is especially true for small practices with leaner budgets.
And this problem is not going anywhere anytime soon as more and more patients will either have to pay larger co-pays per office visit or they’ll be forced to spend more out of pocket money because of their choice of policies with higher deductibles.
The middle class is becoming increasingly burdened by the cost of healthcare and many professionals struggle to cover what their employer’s health plan won’t.
“It’s a case of companies trying to offer workers health insurance and still generate profit,” said Eric Wright, a professor of sociology and public health at Georgia State University. “But whenever costs go up for the consumers across the board … it promotes a delay in care.” Or, a delay in payment.
The bottom line to your bottom line is this.
The days of not being affected by not collecting patient co-pays is behind us.
Today’s providers need to collect every penny that is owed them.
Here are 10 ways you can improve your practice’s medical billing collections in 2016:
1. Train Staff to Collect
Collections start with your front desk staff so it’s critical they have been trained to get that cash before the patient sees you.
Make sure there are signs up around your waiting room clearly stating your payment policy.
When any member of your staff contacts patients to confirm an upcoming appointment, they should mention any balance that patient may be carrying as well as explain the various payment options available. And, make sure to have staff make it crystal clear that they are expected to pay that balance before their next appointment or when they arrive at the office.
Also, provide staff with scripts they can use to deal with overdue accounts and let them know they should always be respectful and courteous, no matter how many times they are forced to make contact about unpaid bills.
2. Be Transparent About Your Prices
One of the main reasons providers have a hard time with their medical billing collections is because patients are completely blindsided by costs and have not budgeted for the expense. Always be transparent and tell your patients exactly what procedures cost so they will know whether they can afford them or not.
Also be sure to check their coverage before their appointment so you can factor all costs into the discussion and remind those patients with high-deductible plans that they will most likely be paying out of pocket.
3. Select Powerful Medical Billing Software
If you haven’t yet purchased medical billing software, you’re making things far more difficult than they need to be, unless you like uphill battles.
Practice management and medical billing softwares can streamline your entire collections process by tracking past due bills, identifying those patients who have fallen behind, and automating late fees. A robust solution may come with a bigger price tag but remember, that software will end up saving you a ton on internal billing resources as well as increase your collection rate.
4. Offer Different Payment Options
No doubt most of your patients have every desire and intention to pay, they just don’t currently have the financial means to. Consider offering different payment options to those patients who have larger outstanding bills and can’t pay the full amount all at once.
Options include a payment plan, interest-only payments, deferral, etc.
5. Make Paying Easy
It should be fairly obvious – if you want your patients to pay their bills, you must make it as easy as possible. For instance, your collections will increase if you let patients pay you online with a credit or debit card. Another bonus for allowing your patients to use online bill pay is that you will entice more patients to use your patient portal which will ultimately help you satisfy meaningful use requirements – a win/win.
6. Incentivize Your Billing Staff
Recognize that it’s not a lot of fun for your billing staff to have to call patients day in and day out to collect on past-due accounts. It can be frustrating and tiring, and some staff members could eventually become unmotivated. Always show staff your appreciation and offer an incentive program that will keep them motivated.
7. Be a Squeaky Wheel
Being a squeaky wheel generally gets you what you want, even when it comes to collecting from your patients. It’s standard to contact patients on a monthly basis, but if your staff can handle it, why not make contact once a week. Regular and persistent contact may convince a good portion of your patients that it is, in fact, time to pay up.
8. Use USPS Address Service
Good luck collecting from patients who have relocated without providing you with a new address. For a small fee you can add “address service requested” to any bills you physically mail so the post office will send you the patient’s correct address.
9. Track and Manage Your Results
You’ll never be able to improve your medical billing collections if you don’t track and manage your results. Make it a habit and priority to review your collections every month during your financial meeting to see which methods and processes are working and which aren’t.
10. Know When It’s Time to Partner with a Medical Billing Vendor
Chances are many of your unpaid invoices eventually get sent to a third-party collection agency that takes a percentage of the payment anyway, you may want to eventually consider using a third-party medical billing vendor who will work on your behalf and get you paid from everyone who owes you money. This will allow your staff to focus on the other day-to-day tasks, let you focus on your patients, all while increasing your revenue.
You don’t need to put all of these 10 tips into place in order to see an increase in collections. In fact, not all of these strategies are right for every practice, so be sure to test and track each to see which gives your revenue a boost.