It’s one of the most dreaded jobs at any practice—the need to ask for money from your patients. It is also (for obvious reasons) one of the most important parts of a successful practice. Without timely payments, you simply can’t keep your practice going. And non-payment of medical expenses is a big problem for healthcare practices. According to a TransUnion Healthcare study, nearly 68% of patients do not fully pay their medical bills. That’s a HUGE problem for your bottom line. Fortunately, there are a few things you can do to ease the pain of the patient payment collections process and improve the chance of getting paid.
1. Train, train, train, and re-train staff.
One of the most effective ways to receive a timely payment is to ask for upfront payment while the patient is still in the office. This means that your front-end staff needs to be trained on the basics of insurance, copays, coinsurance, medicare, payers, and how to ask for payment. Being professional but kind at check-in is a great way to reduce tension and improve the likelihood that you will receive the money you need. Using a script is another helpful technique. This is especially true for staff that feel really uncomfortable collecting patient payments. There is a great document with sample scripts put together by the American Medical Association that you can check out here.
2. Improve communication with patients.
Patients are often confused about what they are being billed for. To be exact—61% of patients say they are confused by their bill! This is one of the key reasons they do not pay. They decide to simply ignore what they do not understand. Being able to accurately and consistently communicate with your patients about their bill greatly reduces the chance that they will ignore a bill. Effective communication includes everything from simplifying your collection materials to communicating in the ways that patients are most likely to engage with. This may be through email, a patient portal, or even a text message.
3. Take advantage of technology.
The healthcare industry is notorious for being a little behind technology when it comes to creating an efficient payment process. This can be one of the biggest reasons you’re not getting paid as you should. Patients want their payment experience to be a whole lot more like they find in the retail world. Unfortunately, 77% of providers still use paper-based patient billing methods…even though the majority of patients say they would prefer to receive their bill online with online payment options. To make matters worse, just 22% of practices say they offer payment plans or can automatically charge a patient’s account using a credit card on file or other payment method. And only 11% offer healthcare credit lines through a third-party vendor. If you are one of those not taking full advantage of technology to request payment, you may be missing a large chunk of revenue. Studies show that simply keeping a credit card on file for a patient decreases bad debt by 36% and cuts the cost of collections by 34 %. It’s time to get tech-friendly!
4. Know when to say enough is enough.
Healthcare debt is notoriously hard to collect. Around 12% of net revenue for the average practice is spent in the process of billing for and collecting patient payments. It’s not uncommon for practices to accidentally spend more money tracking down old payments than the worth of that old payment. Just $15.77 for every $100 owed is ever recovered once it is turned over to collections. This means that you need to know when enough is enough. At what point are you losing money trying to get paid? Pay careful attention to how much you are spending on debt collection and establish a payment policy to be able to track this more closely and cut your losses when needed.
Part of a good billing process is simply keeping patients up-to-date on why your services are important. For tips on how to improve performance of your payment collections, check out our free guide, “Patient Payment Playbook: How to Boost Your Collections in Half the Time.”