Oftentimes a lot of emphasis is put on bringing new patients through your doors. Effective marketing is definitely an important part of any practice. However, once that new patient has arrived for their initial visit, there are vital steps that need to be taken in order to create and maintain a steady flow of income and timely patient payments for your practice. The following may seem like common sense or common practice, but it never ceases to amaze me how many of these seemingly “no-brainer” steps are often skipped or overlooked, causing a disruption to the flow of income.
1. Ensure that all critical questions are asked and answered. In order to receive payment from an insurance company, you need to be sure that every item on every claim is filled out correctly, from the spelling of the patient’s name, their date of birth, to the claims address. You also need the patient’s proper contact information in the event that you need to track them down for payment later. You also need to know if they have any other insurance coverage (even if they don’t think that insurance will pay).
2. Make and scan copies of every patient’s insurance information. Medical insurance is an ever growing and deepening complex machine. To track down an insurance claim, just one carrier can have dozens of different numbers to call. In order to make things manageable for your biller, whether in house or a service, scan a copy of each insurance card and attach it to the patient computer profile. While you’re at it, scan a copy of their photo ID and all their demographic forms you had them fill out as well!
3. Be clear on coding. This goes for every patient and visit, but I want to discuss a specific instance. Sometimes a patient (and front desk) believe they are being seen for a “well” or “routine” visit for which there is no copay. During the visit, when specific issues are discussed, it turns the office visit into something else. It’s up to your office to determine whether you change the visit to a sick visit or keep it coded as a preventative visit. Once it has been sent to the insurance company and your patient gets a bill for their copay (that they were told they did not owe when they were in the office), you start wasting time (i.e. money) double checking charts, discussing the issue with the patient, and trying to get that $20 or $30. If you end up deciding to keep it copay free, don’t add in a bunch of other diagnosis codes. If you decide it is a sick visit, let the front desk know to collect the copay, even if it is after the patient is seen. You’ll be saving yourself and your biller a lot of time.
To ensure timely patient payments it really all comes down to effective and efficient communication. These three simple steps really just come down to taking those few extra moments to ensure all the t’s are crossed and i’s are dotted by everyone in your office. It may seem like you’re being efficient with your time by cutting corners here and there to get patients in and out as quickly as possible, but that isn’t the case. Make the most out of the time patients do spend in your office by ensuring all the information you need is gathered and entered correctly, copies are made and scanned, and the coding your biller will be sending out is accurate (the first time!).