As health plan deductibles and monthly premiums continue to rise, the increasing financial obligations patients have is something all medical practices need to be aware of. While not all patients will be able to make their full payment up front every time, practices simply can’t afford to forego attempts to collect patient payments. It’s estimated by Medical Economics that 33 percent of a practice’s revenue comes directly from patients, so medical practices that want to stay financially sound need to pay attention.
How can your practice strike that delicate balance of collecting payment in a way that preserves the practice-patient relationship? Here are four simple steps to impact this delicate—but critical—part of your practice’s financial health.
1. Make eligibility verification part of the patient check-in process.
Without verifying a patient’s coverage, including how much of their deductible has been met, your practice won’t know what to collect—or if there is anything to collect from the patient. Failing to verify eligibility can also hurt the practice-patient relationship. This is one major cause of patient’s receiving unexpectedly high medical bills, which can lead to eroded trust.
By checking eligibility, you know when something isn’t covered, and you can let the patient know how much they’ll need to pay. Willimantic, Conn.-based The Foot Group increased their rate of eligibility verification by almost 6 percent within one month simply by making this a focus.
2. Attempt to collect payments at the time of service.
As patient financial obligations continue to increase, practices shouldn’t expect every patient to pay their balance in full every time. That said, it’s worth trying. Each patient should be asked to pay in full when they come in.
If they can’t, your practice will need to send statements. Many practices only send statements once a month, which creates a delayed billing process and increases the time it takes to collect patient balances. Instead, statements should be processed daily and sent within three days of the claim adjudication. The longer it takes a patient to receive a bill, the less likely your practice is to collect at all. According to the Healthcare Business Management Association (HBMA), there's less than a 30 percent chance of collecting money from a patient if that balance reaches 90 days.