This is the third in the series about the practice that decided to stop being a bank for their patients. This post is about how the practice made the changes needed to stop loaning interest free money to patients and start collecting what was owed. When we talked to the practice administrator she made a statement we didn’t expect. She said making the changes was ‘seamless and exceeded her expectations.’
How does a practice make significant changes to their accounts receivable policy and process and come away with a good feeling about the outcome? Below are the steps this practice took to ensure a smooth transition and avoid the pitfalls that often come with change. Your steps might differ from theirs in some respects but in general these should work for nearly any practice.
- Track Your Numbers. Be sure of where you stand and what it means to your practice profitability. What do the numbers show? How much is owed? How is it aging? Are you becoming a bank for a growing number of patients? Your physicians will need to see these numbers and understand what they mean to their personal and practice income.
- Get Physician Buy-In. The key decision here is, ‘Will we see patients that will not commit to payment?’ This is difficult for physicians. They typically do not want to turn patients away and they don’t want the reputation of lacking compassion. Showing them the numbers and ensuring them there’s a way to improve them without compromising patient care is essential.
- Review Your Policy. An often neglected but important step is to review and know what your policy actually says. In many cases, your policy may not need to change, it may only need to be enforced. If it does need change then make sure your physicians and staff are made aware and train them how to enforce the changes. Take these steps before making any real time changes in your practice or with your patients. Develop scripts with your staff to handle delicate conversations and any patient objections that might come up.
- Choose Your Technology. Technology can often aid change. If the changes your practice needs require adoption of new technology, make sure those who will be using the new technology are in on the demos and are giving input on the decision. When staff users have a voice they will more readily adopt the change and see themselves as part of the process.
- Start Small. The practice we have been spotlighting made an important decision early in the process of making changes. They decided to implement the changes in one speciality before taking them practice-wide. What this did was allow them to work out any bugs in the process and collect real data about the outcome. What they found confirmed the changes and gave them confidence to go practice-wide. Who can argue with a 25% reduction in outstanding accounts receivable?!
- Change Your Policy. We’ll look at the specific changes to make in next week’s installment. Until then you may want to review what we’ve covered so far and see if you can anticipate what our sample practice changed.
Confidence is what we are shooting for here. When a practice analyzes their numbers, reviews their policies, carefully chooses their technology, and keeps everyone on staff informed they build confidence in the decisions being made. The physicians will back the decisions and help enforce them and the changes will go smoothly.
Stay tuned to learn more about the practice that has successfully implemented changes that allow them to serve patients well while avoiding past due accounts that were draining profits from their practice.