Managing Your Newest Payer: Your Patients

With patients taking on more financial responsibility, have a strategy in place to collect what you are owed.

Remember that patients are becoming bigger payers because of soaring deductibles, and they typically don't come with detailed contracts governing how they'll pay their bills.

"The best defense for physicians negotiating with payers is to go on offense with their patients," says Craig Hodges, CEO of CarePayment, a healthcare finance company that adds a step between your patients and the collections agency. The company pays providers upfront for patient obligations, then offers zero-percent financing to patients and takes over the billing function from there, prior to the accounts going to collections.

"Most providers are not great with handling increasing bad debt from patients who couldn't or wouldn't pay, so [we] work with physicians to set up procedures for getting some money up front," and starting a payment plan. Patients respond positively to the free financing and the speed with which billing happens, which turns a typical pain point in the relationship into something that builds loyalty, he says.