Missing Piece Blog

Tips for Improving Patient Collections

It’s the beginning of the year and, typically, that means your patients are accumulating deductibles and out-of-pocket costs.  That means it’s the perfect time to improve your patient collections process! Wondering just how to improve patient collections by following best practices? Here are a few simple things you can do to achieve that goal.  

  • Educate – It’s extremely helpful – and sure to be greatly appreciated – if you take the time to let families know in advance what their expected costs may be. This practice allows patients to better plan for those expenses. Communicate clearly, early, and often. Document expectations in writing with acknowledgment from the responsible party wherever possible.    
  • Start Early Speaking of early communication, it’s worthwhile getting a head-start on the admin side of things before a new patient even arrives at the practice. Ensure that you save their contact details and, most importantly, their insurance information. It will benefit both your practice and patients if you double-check that their insurance adequately covers the cost of your services. If it doesn’t, provide a breakdown of all details pertaining to co-payments in order to streamline future collections.
  • Communicate – Make sure patients and their families can access their statements easily. Also, take the time to find out how each patient or responsible party prefers to access their balances. Email and text notifications are becoming more common and are a less expensive means of communicating patient statements. Many EMR systems now offer this secure alternative. Deploy an opt-in system for patients to consent to electronic statements. 
  • Provide Clarity Providing patient statements that are easy to understand, clear, and timely is an important piece of the patient collections process. Statements should be clear about what was paid by insurance and the remaining balance due. The use of different fonts, colors, or design features helps to make statements more reader-friendly.  Additionally, sending patient statements as quickly as possible after the date of service keeps the charges fresh in the patient’s mind. 
  • Prioritize Accessibility Gone are the days when patients mail a perforated stub and check to the office. Now, patients want to pay by personal credit card, health savings (HSA) or flex spending accounts (FSA).  Increasing accessibility to either phone or online payment systems will improve collections.  Just remember that it’s critically important to ensure that systems and processes are HIPAA and PCI compliant. 
  • Reconsider Your Payment Options You can improve patient payment collections by making it easier for responsible parties to make the payments. If you only offer one or two payment options, it is time to make some changes. In doing so, you’ll improve patient satisfaction and see a positive uptick in collections. It’s a good idea to accept cash, credit cards, checks and point-of-sale payments. Thanks to technological advancements, it’s also possible to receive payments through a dedicated online payment portal, which often also comes with its own patient collections tracking feature.
  • Offer Convenience – Many patients receiving long-term or intensive treatment reach their insurance out-of-pocket maximums or incur significant co-payments. Paying this balance in full immediately may be impossible for the responsible party.  Providers can offer flexible payment plans to accommodate patient needs.  Automatic recurring payments are ideal for minimizing necessary actions on behalf of the patient’s responsible party. If you do decide to offer payment plans, keep the following in mind:
    • Payment plans that extend further than six months aren’t recommended as they can complicate collections.
    • You’ll need a solid agreement informing the patient or responsible party of all the terms and conditions pertaining to the payment plan. Ensure that you include information about any “late fees” payable in the event that a recurring payment isn’t made within the stipulated time frame. 
    • The agreement should be signed by the patient or responsible party, and they should receive an electronic copy of the document.  
  • Streamline Your Follow-Ups – In the vast majority of cases, collections shouldn’t be challenging, but occasionally, you’ll be faced with a situation in which one or more follow-ups are required to complete a transaction. Your follow-up process is important as it can determine how quickly and effectively a collection can be made. You should always start by sending a billing statement, followed by a reminder, followed by a phone call. If the issue still isn’t rectified, you’ll need to send an additional letter, followed by a final reminder and a final call before handing the matter over to a collections agency. 
  • Give Your Employees a Refresher Course – Providing regular training and refreshers are critical regardless of whether you have a separate billing department, or your front-of-office staff handles patient collections. After all, requirements for compliance change frequently, and it’s always a good idea to get the team together to discuss improving patient collections and to delve deeper into what’s working and what isn’t.

For many ABA and behavioral health providers, managing patient statements and balances seems insensitive to the families that may be experiencing extreme hardships already, or the time and technology required may be burdensome. However, contracts with insurance companies outline the legal obligation of providers to attempt to collect patient balances. 

Missing Piece Billing and Consulting is experienced in managing patient collections. We customize our solution to the organization’s unique needs and can offer a wide range of options to help optimize collections, including electronic statements and payments. Let Missing Piece handle your insurance billing and patient statements so that you can focus on taking care of your patients. 

To learn more, contact us today at 765-628-7400 or weare@yourmissingpiece.com.