Even with all the payment changes over the past few years—shifting reimbursement paradigms under the Affordable Care Act (ACA), not the least among them—the need to maximize your window collections at front desk hasn't changed at all.
In fact, it may even be more important now that deductibles, co-payments and coinsurance amounts are on the rise.
In 2009, MGMA estimated that less than 20% of a typical practice's revenue came from patients. That's not the case today; high-deductible plans have grown over 1,000%, and now over 11 million Americans are covered under HDHP plans.
As a natural consequence, patient liability has skyrocketed, from about $250 billion in 2009 to nearly $410 billion in 2015 according to a McKinsey Quarterly report, representing an increase of almost 70% in just a few years.
If you haven't revamped your patient collections procedures, you could find yourself struggling to hit your cash flow targets. Here are some tips to help you get started boosting your patient revenue.
Be Proactive About Eligibility
Train your staff to do a detailed eligibility evaluation on every patient and every encounter. Verify co-payment and coinsurance amounts and find out if there's any applicable deductible before benefits kick in.
It's also extremely important to determine if your practice is in-network for patients in HMO or PPO plans. If you're not, or if you're providing a service that isn't covered out of network, you should know that up front and be prepared to give the patient an accurate estimate of his or her share of the bill.
Giving the patient financial guidance before he or she sees the provider is an excellent way to avoid unpleasant surprises at checkout—and gives the patient an opportunity to discuss options with you if a large balance remains.
Develop a Collections Based Mindset.
This goes beyond just encouraging your front office staff to ask for—and collect—co-payments at every visit. A collections mindset requires looking at your front office policies to put more emphasis on patient collections and make it easy for your patients to pay.
Of course, you should be collecting co-payments and coinsurance amounts up front before the patient is even seen. This is usually fairly easy when you're collecting smaller amounts of $25 or even $50. But when amounts creep much beyond that, a little privacy and discretion is often warranted.
Some practices structure their front desk with partitions or separate areas to provide more privacy for staff to discuss financial details with patients. If that's an option for you, it may pay off in improved collections.
Develop a practice of calling patients who may have high coinsurance or deductible amounts prior to their appointment to let them know what to expect and establish payment arrangements.
Offer Alternate Payment Methods
As healthcare becomes more commodified, a retail mindset becomes invaluable. Credit card payment is a must, but you can even take it a step further by offering mobile and smartphone payment options, as well. Other options to consider are payments by phone, e-checks, and online payments through a patient portal or other third-party payment vendor.
Don't be afraid to offer incentives for paying by cash or debit card up front, and consider offering simple (interest free, even) terms for short-term monthly payment plans on balances over a certain amount.
The point is to make it simple and virtually unavoidable for a patient to pay his or her bill at the time of service, either in full or with a signed payment arrangement secured with a credit or debit card on file—which leads to the final suggestion -
Offer an incentive in exchange for keeping a credit or debit card number or checking account information on file for future payments. Incentives can be as simple as a thank-you goodies bag or as valuable as preferred appointment times or other service upgrade. The advantages of a guaranteed payment source on file are worth the trade off to your practice over the long term.
We provide award winning patient help desk at no extra cost to answer all the patient queries with regards to their invoices. If you have questions about how to improve your patient collections, why not contact the medical billing professionals at M-Scribe today for a free consultation?