A Financial Policy: The Key to Collecting and Maximizing Patient Payments
As the cost of healthcare continues to rise, so does the cost for patients. Patients are seeing an increase in their premiums, deductibles, cost shares, and co-payments. This can easily affect a provider’s practice revenue since almost, if not more than 50 percent of a patient’s responsibility can go uncollected. This is evident among both insured and self-pay patients. The key to collecting and maximizing patient payments is a financial policy. Having a financial policy in place can help direct staff on how to handle and collect on outstanding balances, how to collect from self-pay patients at the time of services, what options are available for payment, etc. A financial policy can answer all of these questions. There are many key points that a provider should address in his/her practice’s financial policy to increase the revenue from patients, we will discuss five key points here.
The first key point to address in the financial policy is what role the staff will play in collecting information and payment from the patient. The staff must be completely comfortable asking patients for money. The best time to collect from a payment is at the time of service. Once the patient leaves your office, the likelihood of receiving payment is decreased and it continues to decrease each month. It is important that the staff is aware and understand the financial policy and how they can apply it.
The second key point to address in the financial policy is the options you have available for the patient to pay such as eChecks, paper checks, credit/debit cards, and HSA/FSA cards. Patient portal is another great way for patient’s to pay their bills. We as consumers make payments everyday online so why not offer your patients a way to pay you online. This can cut down on how much time your staff spends on the phone taking payments as well.
The third key point to address in the financial policy is the expectations regarding when your office expects payments, how late fees will be assessed, and the option to set up payment plans. Often times patients cannot afford to pay their balance in full. It is imperative that a patient knows when their statement is due and what late fees will be assessed if the balance isn’t paid. Payment plans are important because the provider is giving the patient the option to make payments that they can afford every month and still collecting revenue. We understand that providers do not want to have patient’s paying small amounts on a large outstanding bill, but the only other option is collections and in some instances a patient would rather be sent to collections because they know that they could pay what they want.
The fourth key point to address in the financial policy is the use of an automated system to make payment reminder calls. An automated system can help to automate the collection workflow for your practice while making the patient aware of their balance in between statements.
The fifth and final key point to address in the financial policy is the use of a collection agency or credit bureau for unpaid balances. It is extremely important to address this so that the patient understands the consequences of not paying his or her balance.