With patient responsibility now more than 25 percent of the total value of the bill, practices need to develop core competencies in collecting co-pays, co-insurance and deductibles at the point of service.
Effective point-of-service collections require a multi-pronged approach addressing operational processes, staff training and patient communication. Success at collecting this increasingly important revenue will require focus on three goals: encouraging patients to make point-of-service payments, training staff on how to collect money owed, and helping patients understand their financial obligations - before services are performed wherever possible.
Collecting Payments at the Point-of-service
Your first and most important opportunity for collecting patient payments is at the point-of-care. By leveraging automated patient eligibility tools to verify a patient’s insurance coverage upfront, you can communicate the estimated cost for services, inform the patient of their obligation, and help them understand the terms and timing of their payment.
Make an effort to work with your patients to assist them in meeting their obligations. Patients may not know the amount of their deductible or how much of it they've met. Spend time with patients to educate them about their plan and coverage.
Ensure that your practice has clearly articulated financial policies. With a number of high-deductible plans available to consumers, it is increasingly important that practices address payments for procedures and visits early on.
There will be times, however, when you cannot collect patient payments during the visit. In these instances, you will need to bill them post-visit. Consider offering payment plans or other methods of working with patients to collect balances.
Support Your Staff with Collection Techniques & Tools
Staff your front desk with employees who are comfortable speaking with patients about the collection process and their financial responsibilities.
If you want to make money, you have to ask for it. We realize it’s not always easy to discuss payment with patients, but don’t be shy about it. After all, you have invested time, money and effort into the quality of care you provide your patient, it’s only reasonable to expect your patients will recognize and meet their financial obligations to you.
To help your staff successfully collect payment, adequately prepare them. Develop scripts that help your staff know how to ask for payment during patient check-in. Starting from the time the appointment is scheduled, your patient should be informed that payment is expected at time of service. If you have patients with outstanding balances you should also be collecting that balance during the visit. Having a script for the most common scenarios that front desk personnel encounter will help reduce guesswork for the staff, and establishes common procedures.
Patient: "I forgot my checkbook."
Staff: "We accept all major credit and debit cards. I can swipe your card today and preauthorize any future payments so you won't have to worry."
Which leads into our next point. Once a patient knows what they owe and the staff is effectively requesting payment, you need to make it easy for them to pay and easy for the staff to collect. Card and check scanners are critical. If your practice has multiple check-out areas and card scanners are not available at each, consider a mobile app designed specifically for health care that allows quick and secure patient collections throughout the practice using an iPad or other mobile device. When a patient is ready to pay, you need to be prepared to accept payment. For patients who do not pay their bills at the time of service, practices should work to make post-discharge payment as convenient as possible.
Help Your Patient Understand Their Responsibility
Medical practices must be truly patient-centric, even when it comes to financial matters. Keep your patients educated. Inform them about insurance billing basics such as: what is a co-pay, co-insurance, deductible, explanation of benefits, so on and so forth. Just because you toss around these terms every day, doesn’t mean that your patients are as well-versed in this terminology. Practices must take an active and supportive role in working with patients from both a clinical and financial perspective. Patients appreciate having someone on their side.