Increasingly, the healthcare industry has been shifting toward patient cost-sharing, which includes high deductibles, co-pays, and coinsurance. Consequently, collecting from patients has taken on a higher level of importance than in the past. According to ACA International, 29 percent of adults have medical debt. Many of these people have problems paying their medical bills.
Medical professionals, practice managers and other providers understand the importance of patient collections to the financial viability of their practices and organizations. The key is to improve patient collections without the need to take drastic measures or rely on nontraditional payment programs.
Here are some strategies and best practices that can help you improve your patient collection efforts.
Create a Collections Policy
Establish a comprehensive account resolution policy, which includes procedures for dealing with the most common types of patient collection scenarios. This includes financial assistance programs, account resolutions and collections. Make sure that the policies are written in easy to understand language that management, staff and third parties representing the provider must follow.
For example, the clause covering financial assistance procedures should describe how financial assistance should be applied, supporting documentation, eligibility requirements for programs, and other information. In addition the policy should be communicated and made available to all your patients.
Verify Patient Information
Make sure that you confirm the patient’s information when he or she checks in for an appointment. This includes phone numbers mailing address email or other preferred method of contact expressed by the patient. Avoid asking the patient if the information has changed. Instead, print out the information and ask the person to verify each item and make changes as necessary.
Keep an updated copy of the patient’s insurance card--front and back, as well as up-to-date co-payment amounts.
Reminders about Patient Responsibility
When making appointments or when making reminders calls make sure that you include a message that co-payments or coinsurance must be paid at the time of the visit. Inform the patient of the exact dollar amount they need to pay, which makes it more probable that the patient will be prepared to pay that amount when they check in. Encourage the patient to ask questions and receive answers about how the payment is being applied.
Post co-payment and coinsurance polices in waiting rooms and patient examination spaces.
Financial Assistance and Payment Options
Even for health care professionals, the financial aspects of patient care can be convoluted and confusing. There are complex payment structures, a multitude of government programs, countless payers and complicated forms to fill out.
Provide patients with the assistance necessary to wade through the healthcare reimburse and payment bureaucracy. Furthermore, successful organizations screen patients for eligibility for third-party coverage and financial assistance programs on an on-going basis. Make sure that your patients know that financial assistance is available to help them apply for these programs.
Obvious payment options include cash, check and credit/debit cards. If you have not already done so, you should add health savings accounts attached to credit cards as a payment option. Consider making payment arrangements for patients who have high co-pays or deductibles.
Before sending a billing statement to the patient, confirm that you have an accurate and complete patient balance. Identify insurers, government programs and third-party sources. Pursue payments from these sources to the fullest extent possible and accurately apply them to the account. The statement you send to the patient should be in plain language.
Aggressively educating and communicating with payments about their financial responsibilities can ensure that a larger percentage of payments will pay their obligations in a timely manner.
Image via David Goehring