A Lawyer's Tips on Boosting Collections with Injury Patients

February 8, 2011

Nearly every physician has encountered at least one patient seeking medical treatment as the result of a personal injury event. If you have yet to experience this patient, you can almost certainly expect to.

"It's not just what you make, It's also what you keep," is a phrase you've heard from me before. Given current economic changes and compensation challenges profit retention measures are a more important part of your legal and financial planning as a doctor than ever before. This strategy must include best practices in your collections efforts as well. For some front line knowledge in this area I turned to my friend Attorney Michael Troncellito, founder of the law firm Troncellito & Associates, who has built his business in part by providing doctors a system that increases the speed of collections and helps guarantee that caregivers can give the treatment the patient requires when they need it. - Ike Devji

Nearly every physician has encountered at least one patient seeking medical treatment as the result of a personal injury event. If you have yet to experience this patient, you can almost certainly expect to. Over the past 10 years, physicians of all types have asked me how to achieve higher collection rates quicker and with less hassle. The question involves a complex set of circumstances and considerations; but the answer is simple. Just like everything else in life, the answer primarily lies in “who you know;” not “what you know.”

First, it is imperative that you create a working relationship between your office and a personal injury law firm that shares your values in providing patient/client care while maximizing recovery for the patient/client and the medical professional. Make sure the law firms you work with agree, in writing, to do the following:

• Within 10 days of your involvement, if not sooner, the law firm must provide your office with a practical understanding of the available insurance proceeds and a reasonable estimate of the total medical bills.

• The law firm must subscribe to a communications policy where only attorneys speak to you or your staff. Get written assurances that legal staff will only be under the most extreme circumstance.

• Require that the law firm only ask you to reduce your billings after it first reduces its own charges. Further mandate that the firm take a reduction of its fees proportionate to the reduction it requests from you.

• The law firm should be willing to show you, in writing, its policy of never taking more money as a fee than the injured person ultimately receives. This is regardless of how much cases settle for. This practice often enables the attorney to have more money to pay the medical providers.

The second set of things you can do to ensure higher collections faster is to make a few minor, inexpensive changes in how you run the personal injury portion of your practice.

• Store personal injury charts and files in a different place. This gets you and your staff thinking differently right from the get-go.

• Listen to the attorney (who met those criteria above) as it relates to what liability insurance carriers consider to be appropriate versus excessive treatment. Liability insurers define “medical necessity” much more conservatively than health insurer.

• Have all injury patients sign a statutory lien document. Record the lien with the appropriate county recorder or other recording agency in your state.

• Have all patients sign a contractual lien and have his or her attorney sign the same.

These very basic and inexpensive methods have increased collections for nearly every physician who employs them. If you feel like you waste time and money with personal injury patients, put these recommendations into action. Your receivables will increase; and so will your happiness.

Michael Troncellito is the principal and founder of Troncellito & Associates, a litigation and business consulting boutique law firm in Phoenix, Ariz.