Given a choice between extracting my own wisdom teeth without anesthesia and having the job of collecting healthcare balances – I might just go for DIY dentistry. At least the pain of extracting my own teeth would eventually subside. The pain of collecting patient balances seems to never go away. Just the chore of getting someone to answer his or her phone is an excruciatingly painful exercise.
Photo courtesy: https://youtu.be/qIvsVxu1uvs
Once you get them on the phone, do you have any real confidence that they will do what they arranged to do? “Sure, I’ll send you a check on the 30th,” they promise. The 30th comes and goes and no check arrives so you are back to square one and the dreaded phone call. Except now, they know your number and refuse to answer. You may never get them back on the phone.
How can you put an end to this cycle of promise, broken promise, repeat? How can you get past making arrangements that patients don’t keep? Is there a way for your office to take control of getting paid? How can you stop making multiple phone calls and move on to more productive use of your time? No one can guarantee you’ll get your past due patient on the phone but don’t you want to ensure you’ll be paid once you do?
Let me suggest three steps that will get you to One Call Collecting.
Set Your Policies: Work with your physician (or other) owners to determine what terms you will extend to your patients who have payment issues. Will you demand one-time payments or give them an opportunity for payment plans? If you demand they pay in one payment; are you willing to write off balances quickly to a third party (because you will be doing a lot of it!).
If you offer payment plans, on what terms? You’ll need to know how long you’ll allow folks to make payments and for what amounts. Will you give them ‘as much time as they need’ even if they pay only five dollars a month? Or, will you set guidelines like, no more than six months for balances under $____, or six to twelve months for balances over $____?
Once you have these policies you’ll need to enforce them. Inform your physicians that if they make exceptions they jeopardize any advantages you are hoping to gain. Train your staff on the policies and tell them exceptions must be approved by the appropriate authority (whether that’s you, a CEO/CFO, or the physician). You will also need a way to enforce policies with patients. A policy isn’t worth the paper it’s written on unless you can enforce it. Holding patients accountable can be the easiest part of this approach if you have the right tools.
Select Your Tools: Does your office have a way to set up payment plans that are automatic? Can you set them and forget them? Do your tools give you control of the payment process or does the patient have control?
Most healthcare practices do not control when they get paid by the patient. They typically make an arrangement for payment with a past due patient and then wait for the patient to send a check. When the patient doesn’t pay, they call them again, and again, etc. You know the drill. You can stop this drill if you have the right tools. Find a software tool that allows you to set up automated recurring payment plans using a debit or credit card (like Easy Pay). This is where ONE CALL COLLECTING comes into play.
If you have a tool that allows you to capture and securely store a debit or credit card and then set up an automated payment plan using that card, then you effectively take control of when you get paid! The only thing you have to do is get the patient on the phone ONCE. I know, even that’s tough, but when you have them on the phone you simply gather the payment card info, set the payment amount and date, and leave it. The system handles the rest for you. Some systems even email the receipt directly to the patient on the date of the payment.
Imagine never having to make more than one call to a past due patient! You can do it with the right policies, tools, and scripting as below.
Script Your Presentation: Knowing what to say when the patient is on the phone is as important as having the right policies and tools to back you up. If you have some sure-fire ways to speak to past due patients then, by all means, use them. If not, then consider these.
Once you have the patient on the phone, get right to the point, and say, “Hi Mr. Patient, this is Dr. Drew’s office calling about the past due balance of $____ on your account. We would like you to stop by the office and pay that balance today.” Expect the patient to say they can’t do it. Then offer them an easier way to pay. At that point you can say, “No problem, I’m happy to take that payment over the phone right now. If you can provide your debit or credit card number, we can take care of it right now and I’ll never have to call you again.”
Again, expect the patient to make some excuse for not being able to make the whole payment now. Then you can respond, “No problem, I can set up smaller payments for you and have them come out automatically. How does that sound?” The patient will typically be relieved that you’ve solved their problem. From here you only have to obtain their payment card information, enter the arrangement into the system and let them know if will all be automatic from here.
You made one call and got a permanent arrangement that will happen automatically. You win because you just took control of getting paid. The patient wins because he or she never has to worry about dodging your calls or having an unpaid bill. One call collecting CAN happen if you follow these three easy steps.