Let's be real - there are over twenty million people out of work right now. They are struggling to pay their rents, mortgages, utilities, and often, basic necessities. Their medical bills are so far down on the list of priorities they can't even imagine when they will be able to pay them.
That puts a hardship on you. Your practice is probably hurting as well. Cash is strained. You may be closed during this crises with no income being created. Add past due patient balances and you may be facing a crises in the near future.
But collecting past due payments is going to be essential to the health of your practice. So how do you compassionately collect from patients who are suffering? Here are some tips to help with your approach.
1. Learn their situation: Compassion is caring about how your patients are doing personally. Without prying, you can ask how they are holding up with the isolation, if they are able to work from home or still go to work, and if they have any immediate needs or questions.
2. Ask directly about their bill: Now that you know if they are working from home or at all, you can talk about finances. Ask them if their financial situation has changed and if they need some special arrangements. Probe, but gently. Some folks don't like to talk about their situation at all, but if they sense that you want to help them, they will typically discuss the options.
3. Give them time: You may learn that they have been out of work and are not expecting to go back for a while. You may have to offer a deferment on their payments. If you do, it will help to be able to put a payment card on file and set a date to transact the payment. Instruct the patient that the payment will be taken on that date unless they call and change it.
4. Give them a plan: If your patient can make regular payments of any size, your practice will benefit. Ask them how much they can pay and set them up on an automated recurring payment plan using their payment card. Giving them the option of paying an amount they can handle now, on the monthly date they can best pay, will give them confidence that you will be more than fair with them. Later, once this crises passes, you can call them and see if they are able to up the monthly amount and resolve the bill faster.
5. Offer care: This probably goes without saying, but make sure you learn about their health and if they will need to schedule a visit at the soonest date. Prioritize those who need care and make sure you keep in touch so they can be seen when your practice is able.
Compassion never goes out of style. If you care for your patients and show them, they will remain loyal and you'll find that your practice will rise to the top of their bill payment list. Once they are back on their feet, they will be sure to remember that you were more than fair and very concerned about their well-being. Most people would rather pay someone who was kind to them over someone who was demanding and rude.
Here's to everyone and every practice caring for people during this difficult time! You are much appreciated and we wish you the best financial recovery once this is all over. May you prosper and your patients health improve!