3 easy steps to increasing cash flow in 2023:
1. Collect insurance information over the phone when the patient calls to schedule their initial appointment and verify patient benefits and eligibility before their visit.
Patients are expressing an increased interest in wanting to know their medical bills ahead of time. According to an Instamed survey, 88% of patients are now wanting to know their payment responsibility upfront. This is so important to them that 65% of patients expressed that they would be willing to switch providers if it meant they would be informed of their healthcare costs upfront. 75% of patients say that if they fully understood their out-of-pocket costs, their ability to pay for healthcare would be improved. Of course it is not possible to provide 100% accuracy upfront when it comes to what the patient will end up owing, but it is possible to find out exactly what their copay and deductible are, along with status of the provider being in or out of network. Insurance companies have followed this increasing need to know healthcare costs upfront by making it easy to check eligibility online. When the patient comes in for their first visit, clearly and concisely explain their financial responsibilities before they see the provider. This simple strategy will dramatically increase patient collections.
2. Educate your front desk staff on how to discuss copays with patients and reinforce the expectation of paying copays before the visit.
People enjoy routine. If the expectation to pay copays before the visit is explained from the beginning, and continually collected, the patient will be a lot less likely to get upset. If this is not something your current patients are used to, then it is important for the front desk staff to be polite and communicate to every patient why this new policy has been set in place. Having a sign explaining this new policy will help front desk staff to feel more comfortable reinforcing it. With patient out of pocket costs rising, this is more important now than it has ever been. For convenience and ease, keeping credit cards on file for copays would help with this transition. It is a lot easier for someone to say “yes” and sign off on a charge to their card than it is for them to hand a card over. Consumers are used to paying for services up front and if the precedent is set from the beginning, going to the doctor will be no different.
3. Designate a staff member to speak with patients about outstanding balances.
Although this may be uncomfortable, with clear communication and professionalism, it can be done without conflict. Conflict and frustration will only arise when a patient does not fully understand their responsibility. Educating and training your staff to collect outstanding balances while the patient is on site is vital. Staff incentives may also help in motivating staff members to collect from patients. Keeping patient credit card on file to be charged up to a certain amount per visit may also aid in outstanding balance collections. 20% of patients say that a credit card on file would be their preferred method of payment for up to $200.00. An amount can be determined once insurance benefits are verified. Payment plans can also be agreed upon to help in consistency of payment on larger balances. Once a patient is sent to collections, according to the ACA International’s Top Collection Market Survey, it is shown that only 21.8% of the balance is actually collected and so this should be avoided at all costs, by collecting balances, copays, and deductibles up front.
It is becoming increasingly important to collect copays, deductibles, and outstanding balances from the patients at the time of visit. On average, more than 30% of patients walk out of a medical practice without paying anything and, once they walk out, patients are 50% less likely to pay their bills after they leave. By setting policies in place requiring copays to be collected upfront and by educating and training your staff on how to communicate with patients regarding outstanding balances, you will be able to increase your accounts receivable and ensure that your practice continues to thrive in this new year and this ever changing insurance market of increasingly high patient out of pocket costs.
Biehle, Sean. “2018 Medical Billing Statistics.” MedData, 30 Oct. 2018, www.meddata.com/blog/2017/10/26/medical-billing-statistics/.
Cleargage. “How to Increase Patient Collections in Your Practice.” Cleargage, 31 May. 2018, cleargage.com/how-to-increase-patient-collections/.
Shipp, Ginny. “MGMA18 The Financial Conference.” Navicure, 2018, MGMA18.org.
Trends in Healthcare Payments. (2017). 8th ed. Philadelphia: InstaMed.