improve practice collectionsFeeling a cash flow squeeze, either from the various compliance programs, ACA effects on patient payment or other issues? Not surprising—many practices are feeling the pressure.

In part I of this blog series, we discussed how speeding up your billing can improve your cash flow. Now let’s take a look at how improving collections can increase your cash flow.

Collections has become more important over the last few years because of the increase in patient responsibility, and there are no signs that this is slowing. With patient payments come collections challenges—but fortunately, there are steps you can take to minimize these challenges.

Did you know that your chances of collecting patient amounts drop to less than 40% after the patient leaves your office, while your chances of collecting before the patient sees the doctor are greater than 80%? That’s why it’s important to start the collections process even before the first appointment. Here are some tips to help improve your collections:

  1. Make Sure Your Staff is On Board.
    Unfortunately, some staff members dislike collecting payments. This attitude clearly will not facilitate good collection levels, so it’s important to get them on board. Communicate how the collection of patient payments translates to continued ability to care for patients, in addition to providing job security for everyone in the practice. If you also provide care for low or no cost to those who can’t pay, remind your staff that this is made possible at least in part by collecting payment from those who can pay.
  2. Give Your Staff the Tools They Need
    Staff members may be uncomfortable simply because they don’t know how to handle the situation. Scripts, signs and forms that communicate financial policies can help alleviate this discomfort. Just knowing how to say that payment for copays is due before the appointment will simplify the process and make them much more comfortable. In addition, they should understand that politely but firmly requiring payment will not—and should not–offend the vast majority of patients.
  3. Understand the Types of Payers
    There are four types of payers, and each type responds to requests for payment differently. Be sure you understand the differences between these types of payers:

    • Reliable  – Will usually pay from statement
    • Distracted  – Reminders usually generate payment
    • Disrespectful  – Require third party impact
    • Professional Debtor  – Professional collectors required

    You’ll hear more about the types of payers and techniques for working with them in our upcoming webinar; see below to register.

  4. Make a Plan – And Use It
    Make sure you have an up-to-date collections plan, which should include:

    • A Financial Policy that details patient responsibility and is distributed and signed by each patient
    • Training for your staff so that they understand what should happen at each step
    • Patient statements and letters set up in your medical billing software so they are sent automatically at the appropriate points
  5. Track and Manage Your Results
    As we mentioned in the first part of this blog, you can’t manage what you don’t track. So make an appointment with your finances on a regular basis—monthly at least, weekly if there are problems—and review your practice management reports. If a step in the process isn’t working, fix it before things get out of control.

As a final step, we recommend that you join us for our free webinar on May 21: 8 Keys for Optimizing Your Practice Cash Flow. In this informative session, you’ll learn more about the four types of payers and what works for each, setting up an effective collections process, and more.

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