The primary responsibility of every medical practice is to care for patients. But practitioners also have to make sure they are managing their revenue efficiently in order to keep the practice operating. Unfortunately, unpaid patient balances is a big issue in the healthcare field. In fact, a study of 3.1 million patients by AthenaHealth found that practices only collect 12% of outstanding balances at the time of service! This is a problem that can really harm your revenue cycle management (RCM) and practice’s overall health. However, there are tools and tips you can use to collect the money you worked hard to earn. 360Connect put together these 8 ways for efficiently collecting patient balances:
1. Be transparent about billing policies
Did you know that one main reason why patients don’t pay medical bills promptly is because they didn’t know how much it would cost? It is actually quite common that a patient undergoes a medical procedure before knowing the cost was beyond their budget. To avoid this issue, make sure you are very transparent with each patient about procedure costs. Also explain your staff’s procedures and policies for collecting payments and the payment’s due date. Have this conversation before the procedure so you can make sure the patient understands what they will owe.
2. Hire highly-trained medical billers
Medical billing for physicians is a challenging profession that requires particular credentials and a robust skill set. Unfortunately, efficiently collecting patient balances involves more than asking the patient: “Would you like to pay your bill today?”
When running a medical practice, make sure to hire the right professional medical billers that have gone through extensive training and know how to properly collect patient balances. If you are using an in-house billing staff, make sure each staff member is staying up-to-date on training. Also make sure they are utilizing best practice management methods, using medical billing software efficiently, and using your procedure for collecting balances. Usually, the best way to ensure your medical billing staff is efficiently collecting balances and boosting your cash flow is to outsource a highly-trained medical billing company.
3. Make sure billing staff has incentive to be persistent
It’s possible that your in-house billing staff is not following up with patients to pay their bills because they don’t have an incentive. At the end of the day, you are likely paying your billing staff a fixed salary and it can be tiring to keep following up with patients to pay. On the other hand, outsourced medical billing companies usually operate using a “percentage of revenue” model. This means that they only get paid when you get paid by patients. This gives them a huge incentive to be persistent with patients and make sure their bills are paid promptly.
4. Use a reliable practice management software
Using a reliable medical billing software or practice management software can be a lifesaver when it comes to efficiently collecting patient balances. These systems are completely automated so your back-end staff can easily access patient accounts, outstanding balances, submitted claims, and much more. They also can be programmed to alert you when patients have outstanding bills or “ping” patients to remember to pay. If you are still working with an old-school or paper-based medical billing system, it’s time to look into upgrading your billing software! Learn about the 5 best medical billing software options on the market today.
5. Utilize patient notification system to prompt bill payments
Speaking of medical billing software, using an automated tool can notify patients when they have outstanding balances. Many types of billing software have this tool built-in, but there are also other options available if you do not currently have this function. Essentially, you can use this system to “ping” patients via text message, email, phone call, etc. to remind them to pay their bill. You can also include helpful information in these notifications, such as:
- Payment due date
- How many days remaining to pay the bill
- Number of days the payment is “late:
- What the patient’s current late fees are
- How to pay the bill
6. Collect payments using online portal
Giving patients an easy, convenient way to pay their bill is key to efficiently collecting patient balances. Believe it or not, many patients will forget to pay bills if they are required to mail in a check, visit you in person, call your office, etc. Set up an online portal that allows patients to easily log in and enter their billing information to submit payments. Note: many medical scheduling software options can also collect patient balances via their online portal.
7. Regularly meet with billers to review overdue payments
As a busy medical practitioner, it’s possible you have more overdue patient balances than you know! Remember that turning a blind eye to patient balances can result in your practice losing hard-earned money. To stay in-the-know of overdue balances as well as your revenue cycle management overall, schedule regular meetings with your billing staff. Go over financial and billing data, such as percentage of patient bills are that unpaid, overdue, etc. Make sure to also review percentages of claims that are rejected, as this can result in revenue loss for your practice as well! Discuss methods for improving your numbers and efficient ways to collect patient balances moving forward.
8. Offer additional payment options
If you have loyal patients that struggle to pay their bills, you may look into offering alternative payment options. For instance, some patients may fully intend to pay their bills but need some time to collect the money for pricier procedures. Payment plans can allow patients to pay their bills over time, so you can be sure you will eventually get the entirety of the bill.
Remember that if you are struggling to efficiently collect patient balances, an outsourced professional medical billing company is probably the best fit for you! Outsourcing can save you tons of time, effort, and money. Learn about the pros and cons to in-house vs. outsourced medical billing. If you run a dermatology practice, take a look at medical billing services for dermatology.
Want to take a look at how much you could be saving by outsourcing medical billing? 360Connect’s web-based comparison tool helps practices efficiently collect patient balances regularly while saving up to 30% on billing expenses. We’re focused on your success!