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Improving Collections with Empathy


Careful communications can help improve your collection methods and decrease time between service and payment.



Welcome to Perspectives, a new podcast from Physician’s Practice. Allow me to introduce myself, my name is Drew Boxler, editor of Physician’s Practice and your new host.

Every two weeks, we will explore key areas of a successful, thriving, independent practice. We’ll hear from experts in the industry regarding best practices for billing and collections, answer your top coding questions, analyze current legal trends and malpractice landmines to avoid, as well as look at the hottest tech innovations to increase productivity and enhance the patient experience.

Let’s get started...

Establishing a streamlined collection outreach process is essential in order to keep your practice running. It is your main source of income, after all.

However, this critical operational area is not necessarily the easiest to master. You can either attempt to communicate due payments yourself, or rely on firms to do the heavy lifting for you. Whichever you choose, you will need to ensure that communicating payments is performed with the utmost caution and patient’s care in mind.

One of the surefire ways to make payment outreach most effective? Empathy.

To learn a little bit more about the concept of empathetic collections and the best ways to streamline collection outreach, we spoke with Jacob Corlyon, CEO of Capital Collections Management.

Drew Boxler: How do you think practices should approach that collection outreach?

Jacob Corlyon: Our whole approach and what we're what we really preach when we talk to our clients is really being proactive. We start with the education of the patients on the front side, but they're estimated out of pocket expenses.

We tell our provider that they should consider implementing a down payment requirement, offering third party, you know, financing solutions. And it really needs to be a different approach than just sending out statements and changing the color over the aging. It's really getting to more of that engaging with them through multiple channels as well. It's using SMS email calls and web portals to really engage with the patient in the new technology that we have today. And then really, honestly, how [the patients] want to be communicated with.

Drew: Your site also mentions that you haven't first-party and third-party approach. What would be the difference between those and what do you recommend for independent primary care practices?

Jacob: The two different approaches that we offer is one of the first party approach which is a softer touch. It looks and feels like the office is handled under the physician’s brand and it's for accounts not in default. We have a third-party option which is handled in our agency's brand and that's for accounts that could be either in default or are not in default.

What we recommend for primary care practices, it really depends.

Every practice is different— they have different staff levels; they have different staff experience. If they have a really comfortable firm staff that, that they're comfortable handling those initial soft collections, then we suggest just really boosting up their capabilities and their training and their process.

Then really where our recommendation comes that front is having a third party agency come in and handle the account as they become further past due. And this will really alleviate the administrative burden associated with additional collection time needed. We find that it provides a better staff experience on the on the provider side.

Drew: When communicating what is the right tone or the best approach?

Jacob: When communicating, we're looking in terms of tone and confidence.

The individual who's talking on that phone really needs to exude confidence, because that will build trust. And really, when you're in this realm, you really want to make sure that that you're building trust with that individual.

And then, you know, you're using different tonality throughout that conversation to engage in empathy and compassion. We like to call it smiling through the phone as really kind of what we do as a premise. We find that that really puts a good tone from our collective perspective.

Drew: When a practice is looking for a collection agency and what are some red flags think they should be looking out for?

Jacob: What we'd like to suggest to our clients, it's really not settling for a cookie cutter agency. You know, there's a lot of agencies out there that will have a way that they do collections and try to fit you into their box and it's very stagnant and sale. What we do is we really provide that concierge approach and really look at ourselves more of a partner and not a not just a vendor. So when you look at, at the agencies, you want to make sure they're reputable.

Do they have a compliant culture? And are they up to date with state law and collection law update?

Look at their consumer complaints, look at their consumer compliments, look at their client testimonials, make sure they're licensed and bonded in the areas that you need them, and then really try to dive in and focus on are they going to protect your brand?

Do their cultures align with yours? Do they use the latest and greatest is technology and really understand how they're going to engage and how they're going to interact with your patients? And are they using that empathetic problem-solving approach? Or are they just sending, you know, statements and reporting credit? and waiting for somebody to call back?

Drew: Do you have any final advice for practices to ensure their teams are communicating within empathy and their competence?

Jacob: From our perspective, and what we really preach when we go in and give the consultative approach that we offer to our clients one of our services is really that compensation side of the business, and then we can come in and handle the collection side as well.

We really focus on the process. So looking at is the process well documented? Does the staff know how to do everything? Is there coaching is there training?

It's very important, you just can't say, “Hey here your task today is to go and call these 2030 accounts that haven't paid yet.” It really takes a honing of skills to be able to do it successfully.

And then with that it takes active listening skills or effective communication skills. You really want to come up for success in terms of being able to talk about somebody's financial situation. Because it’s a problem-solving approach, which is what we take within our agency. It's looking at that whole individual, taking that empathetic and compassionate approach, and really finding a solution to the problem of them not being able to pay that bill. And that might be you know, looking at different options and payment plan capabilities, and then go ahead and getting something set up.

Then really taking that next step with the staff accountability. we see it a lot in our agencies, which is we're holding our staff accountable. We're doing call audits where we really look at everybody in terms of collection KPIs and things like that.

What we see when we go into a physician practice or a lot of our other Clients is there's not a real focus on the numbers and the interaction. So there really needs to be that that overall focus on looking at your AR as a as a revenue. And looking at the staff that's focused on that as well as the agencies you have focused on that, to really make sure they're performing in the way that they should be, and engaging with the patient that the way you would want them and that's through call audits and things of that nature.


Once again, thank you, Jacob.

And thank you all for listening to this first Perspectives, brought to you by Physician’s Practice. We hope you subscribe where you listen to podcasts, rate us, and let us know what topics you would like to hear more about.

The podcast is produced by the team at MJH Life Sciences.

We’ll see you again in two weeks. Stay safe.

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