As patients shoulder more of their healthcare costs, collecting their portion of payment at time of service is critical. Here are four easy ways staff can boost collections when patients present for appointments:
1. Be confident and assertive. Many staff members may be uncomfortable asking patients directly for payment, especially if collecting at time of service is new at your practice. The more confident and collected staff appears when asking for payment, however, the more likely it is patients will pay.
If necessary, provide staff with training to increase their comfort level, and reassure them that collecting payment is an appropriate part of patient care. “This shouldn’t be something that we feel awkward about requesting,” Jim Akimchuk, vice president of revenue cycle services at healthcare consultancy Culbert Healthcare Solutions, recently told Physicians Practice. “If the patient is coming in for a service, the patient knows that there will be a payment for that service, and requesting that the patient pays their piece of it is a normal, natural part of this process.”
2. Don’t make promises you can’t keep. While collecting coinsurance at time of service is a smart move, it’s important for staff to keep in mind that the amount collected may not represent the patient’s total payment portion. “When the front-office staff is collecting that money from the patient, the worst thing they can say is, ‘This is all you will ever have to pay,’” P.J. Cloud-Moulds, who runs consulting firm Turnaround Medical AR Recovery, recently told Physicians Practice. “You never, never, never say that because the patient will hold you to it, and then you’re adjusting off things that don’t need to be adjusted off.”
3. Ask the right questions. When asking patients for payment, staff should not ask, “Would you like to make your payment today?” Given the option, most patients will say they would rather be billed later. “When that happens then you’ve not only spent the time asking the question and dealing with the patient then but now someone has to process the balance in your billing system, a statement needs to go out, a payment needs to come back in some form, and somebody needs to process it,” said Akimchuk. “The amount of work that’s involved is much higher.”
Rather than asking if patients would like to make their payment, staff should ask patients how they would like to make their payment, said Akimchuk. “Generally speaking when you approach it in a way that says, ‘Here’s what you owe, how are you going to pay me?’ More times than not people are more apt to pay it.”
4. Prepare for the unexpected. Ensure staff knows how to deal when patients can’t pay, or won’t pay, at time of service, collections specialist Marsha Sosebee, who manages the billing/collections department for a plastic surgery practice and surgery center in Dalton, Ga., recently told Physicians Practice. “If you know what you’re doing, if you know what your office policies are, and you know you are able to respond immediately when people don’t want to pay then that shows more confidence,” she said. “If you say, ‘Oh, well let me check with my manager,’ if you have to say that about everything they ask you, then it’s likely you’re not very confident appearing.”
What time of service collections tip would you share with other practices? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.