I found myself in an unexpected dilemma recently. I've been doing this so long that I've forgotten how complex payment issues in healthcare have become. It used to be simple. As long as an office collected the co-payment they could expect the insurance to pay between 80 and 100 percent of the balance owing. The practice didn't have to pay much attention to the patient balances because they were small to non-existent. Not so any longer.
Since 25 percent or more of your revenue is coming directly from the patient, your practice has had to adapt and pay very close attention to the collection process. The complexity of this came to light for me as I've been training someone unfamiliar with healthcare. He is learning the magnitude of the issue and the solutions, but had no idea until we started how the business side of healthcare works.
As I've been explaining things to him, the burden of patient payments on a practice gripped me. I couldn't think of any other business where a similar difficulty exists - healthcare is unique. A profession built on compassion but with a necessity of being paid - so compassionate professionals can continue being compassionate. In the eyes of many, payment is a necessary evil. Perhaps that's why it's such a difficult topic.
Nevertheless, I still had the duty to train our new consultant on how to present the benefits of Easy Pay. I had to explain healthcare and it's unique issues so he would understand what problems we solve with our tools and practice training.
He asked me a very good question, "Are there five or ten questions you usually ask to determine if the practice has a need?" Great question! He wanted to make sure he wasn't talking to practices that had solved the problem for themselves. He wanted to make sure he wouldn't waste someone's time with a solution to a problem they didn't have.
I won't spend the time in this blog to go into the answers, but I will reveal the questions. I think if a practice gets these questions right they are well on their way to collecting every patient dollar - no leakage. Answer these questions for your practice as a type of comfort check. Are you comfortable with your practice performance in these areas or do you have room for improvement?
- What is your practice doing to make sure you collect from patients with High Deductible Health Plans?
- Did you write off more patient balances last year than previous years and does that trend seem likely to continue?
- Do you separate out your patient balances from your payer balances in your aging report?
- Are your patient aging balances consistently growing, declining, or staying stagnant?
- Are you offering your patients options like payment plans, online payments, and card-on-file?
- If you could drastically reduce or eliminate the need to collect patient balances, how much time would your staff save each week?
- Does your staff have trouble talking to patients about payment?
- Are you afraid you’ll lose patients if you firmly ask for payment?
- When do you think you should first mention payments to your patients? (Before appointment arrival, at arrival, after treatment, between treatment and EOB, after EOB?)
- If you could change one thing about the way your practice handles patient payments, what would it be?
If any of these questions makes you uncomfortable I would encourage you to call us. We are consultants first who will simply try to help you solve your problem. It's true that we have a service to sell, but we don't sell to practices that don't need what we do - so don't fear - no strong arm tactics from us. In fact, even if you felt we pushed you into something, fear not! We don't hold anyone to a contract. We don't have penalties if you want to move on - freedom is a wonderful thing!
Maybe you have some questions to add to the list or to ask of us. Send them our way. Shoot us an email at email@example.com. We'll do our best to answer quickly!