As insurance companies continue to push the burden of responsibility to the patient the wide majority of patients are going to be responsible for ever-increasing co-pay and deductibles. This may mean fewer, or smaller, payments from insurance companies and bigger headaches for you. Like it or not the best way to protect your financial interests and make sure you get paid for services rendered is to have a plan.
I’ve outlined a few steps below to get you on the right track to excellent patient care and a much smaller A/R.
- Create your written financial plan: In order to make sure all your employees are on the same page when it come to dealing with the collection of monies from a patient it is important that you formulate a formal policy for how you are going to do it. This plan should be as comprehensive as possible and cover topics such as gaining prior authorization for a procedure, obtaining payment information from the patient prior to the visit, and most importantly how and when you are going to communicate to the patient exactly what they are going to be responsible for paying. With this information it may be possible to secure payment directly from the patient following their visit before they walk out of the door. This all adds up to a smaller A/R and most importantly, better patient care!
- Communication is key: The last thing any of us want to see after a trip to the mailbox is an unexpected bill. The first step in making a patient, or anyone for that matter, unhappy is to surprise them with a bill that they had no idea they were going to get. The key to a happy patient (and happy patients pay their bills and refer their friends) is communication. Most, if not all, offices confirm appointments with their patients a day or two before the visit and this would be a perfect opportunity to verify that the patient understands your financial policy and understands exactly what they will be responsible for. Never miss an opportunity to teach your patients about your billing process; the more they understand now, the less angry phone calls you receive later.
- Technology is our friend: The year is two thousand and eleven and the future is upon us. If you aren’t capturing co-pays from patients via credit/debit card, or your system isn’t sophisticated enough to do so, you are way behind the power curve. If your revenue cycle management software is not working for you (i.e. saving you time and making you money) then it may be time to consider a new system.
- Training and Supervision: You have your plan in place, your patients are well informed, and you have provided your patients with numerous methods to pay their part of the bill. Now you need to make sure your medical biller understands your plan and becomes your revenue cycle master! Your biller needs to understand the process that you have set up and strictly follow it with all of your patients to ensure consistent, excellent, care. This, unfortunately, is something that many practices find hard to do when they do not have a dedicated biller.
The reason so many offices are turning to outside billing companies is because many billing companies, such as Newton-Med (shameless plug) understand how hard, and expensive, it is to balance all of the responsibilities of running your office while maintaining a reasonable overhead cost (Software, payroll, benefits, etc.). Your number one priority should be patient care not stressing about collecting money, keeping up with changes, ensuring timely and accurate claim submissions, sending out statements, fielding phone calls, and processing payments.
No matter who you use to manage your practices revenue cycle, be it an employee or an out sourced billing service, managing your accounts receivables (A/R) should be a high priority. Creating a plan and training your staff to follow that plan is one of the keys to making sure your patients are not surprised by billing statements they receive after they visit your office. As a physician you deliver quality healthcare, but as a businessperson, you should be getting paid what is rightfully yours. Its time to make a plan.
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