According to Becker’s Healthcare, the average physician practice writes off over $30,000 in unpaid medical bills each year. Even more surprising is that 28% of physician practices have no idea how much they are or should be writing off. With the changes and challenges of healthcare reimbursement, ignoring these figures is no longer an option and instead is the difference between staying in business or independent. To be able to keep your practice running efficiently and successfully, one must adapt to the changes and start getting creative to increase payments and decrease A/R time.
Here are the top ten strategies to help your practice increase cash flow, get paid faster, and stay independent:
Have an efficient check in and check out process.
Not only should you take the copay at the time of service, but make it an easy and efficient process. Allow for many ways for your patients to pay, not just cash or check, but also credit card payments. Take the copay when your patient checks in and upon checkout, make sure that they are aware that there might be a statement on the way with any additional charges that their insurance plan does not cover. Make it a routine and normal part of each patient’s visit.
Estimate deductibles when possible.
The more that you can take a payment at the time of service, the better. In fact, there is almost no other merchant that would let the consumer leave without taking the payment. Have you ever gone to the grocery store and left with your eggs, milk, and bread without paying and instead expecting an invoice? It just doesn’t happen. While estimating a deductible is very difficult, making every attempt to estimate these costs, communicate them effectively to your patient, and collecting payment at time of service is critical. Especially with out of pocket patient expenses going up over 230% in the last 10 years.
Send statements to collect balances routinely.
When you cannot estimate the deductible, sending out statements is a must. With the increase in out of pocket expenses, physicians can no longer rely on insurance companies as the main payer and now must work directly with patients on collecting outstanding bills. Getting used to sending out statements on a monthly, bimonthly, or even weekly basis is now necessary and should be considered the norm.
Offer electronic statements.
Postage increased again this year and the loaded cost of a statement (overhead, postage, paper, printing, etc.) is now estimated at almost $3 each. In most cases, 3 statements need to be mailed prior to receiving a payment, so you are paying an average of $9 to collect money that is owed to you. Not only this, but by sending a statement by mail, you are adding unnecessary days to your A/R cycle. Emails are over 60% less expensive than mailed statements and are sent and received in a matter of minutes not days.
Have consistent communication.
With the current economic status of many of your patients, your bill will be one of many that is added to the pile. And because patients do not perceive health care as a debt, often your bill will be in competition with the cable bill. To win this battle, keeping on the top of your patient’s mind is crucial. Send out routine emails, or even better, offer a HIPPA compliant patient portal that offers secure messaging, research of historical statements, and current balances.
Offer multiple payment options.
A recent survey from Consumer Healthcare Payments (2015) pointed out the fact that 70% of healthcare consumers would like the ease and convenience of paying their bill online, yet only 2% of doctor’s offices provide this solution. This is a huge disconnect and by offering a solution to pay online, you will be more competitive with the other merchants that are sending bills to your patients and allow them to click and pay 24/7. For example, how many times have you received a bill in the mail with the intention to pay it, but set it aside because you were busy or didn’t have your checkbook handy only to get a second statement one month later. Electronic payments are convenient and easy for your patients.
Also, offering other options such as paying by walking in, phone, or mail is also important for those 30% that are not looking for an online payment method. Ultimately, giving your patients options, will not only get you paid faster, but will also increase patient satisfaction.
Give your patients a payment plan.
In those situations when you cannot estimate out of pocket expenses and the bill is higher than expected, set up a plan for your patients to pay an automatic payment each month until the debt is no longer outstanding. Not only will this reduce the amount of statements being mailed to collect payment, but you will also receive an automatic payment each month.
Keep a card on file.
As part of your check out process, ask for a credit authorization form from your patient so that their credit card information can be stored in your system. This will allow for easy future payments during your check in and check out process.
Set up auto pay.
In addition to keeping a card on file, have your patients authorize a reasonable amount to be automatically charged to this card in the event of an outstanding balance. Not only will this reduce A/R time by 100%, but it will be very convenient and easy for your patient as well.
Have a trusted partner that can help streamline this process.
This sounds like a lot of work, so off load some of the pressure and find a trusted partner to help with all the above. One such partner is the BillFlash suite of services which offers both print and mail and ebill statement solutions as well as several payment options, including online, in office, and by phone. In addition, BillFlash offers the My Provider Link patient portal for messaging, patient historical bills, and online payment options.The BillFlash payment services also allows for card on file, autopay, and even payment plan options for your patients.