Deductibles have reset and patients will be paying your bills out of pocket for the next few months. Do you have a good way to ensure they’ll pay on time?
Here are a few suggestions to help you design a program that works best for your office and your patients. What you ultimately decide to do will depend on how much your doctor or practice owners will allow. If they have a high tolerance for late or non-payment, then they will stick with business-as-usual. If they would like to improve cash flow and reduce collection costs, then using some of the suggestions for early payment should be considered.
Whatever you choose, you will only benefit by consistently applying the solutions. If your practice will do a poor job at enforcing policy, it’s best not to have the policy. So start will the suggestions your personnel can easily and consistently implement.
Pay Up-Front: This requires front desk staff to collect co-pays and in some cases, deposits. If you want your practice to at least break even on an office visit with no risk of losing money, you will need to collect a deposit. Collecting a deposit sufficient to break even will ensure your practice stays healthy without asking too much of the patient.
Another effective method is to get a card-on-file for the estimated amount the patient will owe. Even if you don’t intend to charge the card, you’ll have it for backup if the patient ends up not paying.
Pay At EOB: Encouraging patients to pay at EOB (or the first statement if you like), the first moment they know exactly what they owe, requires a mix of marketing, follow-up, and reward. Marketing, to inform patients that your practice expects them to pay at EOB and makes it easy and rewarding. Then follow-up to reinforce that message. Texts, emails, and mailed reminders are the best with phone calls as a viable option.
The reward to the patient is a discount for payment at EOB. Practices can easily offer up to a 10% (some more) discount for on-time payment without losing profit. Every patient that pays on time saves the practice the costs of multiple statements, collection calls, poor cash flow, bad debt, and other collection costs.
As we said above, having a card-on-file would ensure the practice can collect at EOB without any action from the patient.
Pay Within 45 Days: This is preferable to business-as-usual, allowing the patient to pay whenever they are ready without much consequence. Again, marketing and follow-up is the key. Some practices may even want to reward patients for paying within 45 days of treatment.
The method works much the same as Pay At EOB but the follow-up starts at 20-25 days instead of at EOB. This gives the practice time to send the first invoice. Once the first invoice has been sent, the practice then follows up aggressively every two to three days with text, email, and phone reminders.
A great way to ensure payment is to market and schedule follow-up calls when the patient is in the office. The marketing should inform the patient that they will receive a follow-up call in 20-25 days after the visit to ask how things are going. This will prepare them to take the call and not think it’s a collection call.
The follow-up call starts with questions about the patients' experience with office/waiting room environment, office staff, and medical staff. Then some questions about the treatment, was it satisfactory, how is the patient doing, etc. Then direct questions about payment like ‘I see your final total is ‘X’, would you like to pay that today? When will you be paying that? Do you need a payment plan? We can take care of this today, would you like me to put that on your card-on-file?’, etc.
The advantages of this method are many. You will find out what your patients like and do not like about your office, your staff, and their treatment. You will put the patient at ease while ensuring you get paid. You will be alerted to any issues with the patient’s health and recovery. You can end the conversation by asking the patient if they need an additional appointment. The benefits far outweigh the time taken to make the call.
Using the above methods will help you avoid the dreaded collection of past due amounts from patients who would like to ignore you. If you want to avoid the rising A/R this new deductible season threatens to bring to your practice, you will need to evaluate how to approach patients in a way they will respond to. We hope we’ve sparked your thinking. We would love to know how your practice has solved the ‘deductible season’ challenge. Comment on this post to give us your thoughts!