Protect Your Medical Practice from Sneaky Sales Tactics

November 9, 2013

Here's how to tell the difference between a solicitation for business and a legitimate request for information from an established insurance company or vendor.

It happens every day across the country.  Your front-office staff is busy checking in patients, collecting co-pays, scanning paperwork, answering the always ringing phone. Unbeknownst to you and your staff, you've been targeted by a salesman and you have agreed to an unnecessary expense.

Practices often get taken advantage of by three types of individuals: Phonebook ad salesmen, office supply salesmen, and new insurers looking to sign up providers. 

Here are some key red flags your practice should watch out for before agreeing to any service:                   

Phonebook ad sales. This is a particularly popular scheme in which practices commit to costly phonebook advertisements by mistake.

Here's how it works: The salesman calls at a peak hour when staff is busy and overwhelmed. The salesman says something like: “We are calling to make sure you wanted to run your ad again like you did last time. Is it okay for us to continue the service?” Your staff thinks: “Oh, I can help our practice out by not letting this ad run out!”

Staff gives the authority to run "the ad" again.  Typically, there is no ad "like last time," and the company creates one for you costing hundreds of dollars. 

The call is recorded by the company so when you get the bill for $600+ dollars and you call to complain, the company plays the recording back to you leaving you no choice but to pay the bill. 

Toner cartridges for your copier. These salesmen are really sneaky.  They call and say something like: “It looks like you're due for new cartridges for your Xerox copier.”  Your staff member who answers the phone says, “We don't have a Xerox, we have a Ricoh.” 

About a week passes, the salesman calls again. Now he is armed with your copier type given to him by your front-office staff. 

He says something like: “We see that you are due for your next shipment of Ricoh copier toner cartridges.  Can we send those to you now?  Can you confirm your mailing address?”

The staffer does, and then your practice receives a bill for $500.

Requests for more information from insurers. This is a complicated tactic in which new insurers manage to acquire new providers. 

Here's how it works: The insurer faxes over a form that has information (public) about your clinics NPI number, address, and at least one physician's name. 

The insurer asks for all of your clinic's NPI's, Physicians' NPI's, license numbers and expiration dates, addresses, phone numbers, fax numbers, etc.  Once your staff fills out this information and faxes it back, it receives a fax  requesting you to sign on the dotted line to complete the contract update. 

The reality is that these faxes are sent from new insurance companies seeping out of the woodwork looking for new providers to sign up.  Unknowingly, you or someone in your office signs this new contract without even knowing what just happened. 

You have now signed into a rate of $50 per visit.  Not the kind of reimbursement you were looking for, and now you're locked in. 

The bottom line is be very aware of phone calls, fax, mail, and e-mails of any sort.  Really take the time to investigate these companies to make sure you are not being taken advantage of.  It's your company, protect it.