Use the technology your practice likely already has to improve your patient collection rate.
With the proliferation of high-deductible health plans under the Affordable Care Act, patient payments have become a bigger chunk of many practices' revenue. As a result, experts say physicians should be developing more sophisticated collection strategies that take advantage of technology to help get money in the door.
Used effectively, technology can help smaller practices stay on top of patients' coverage and financial responsibilities under the new high-deductible plans, as they may be new to both practice and patient. Many newly insured patients are unaware of the service-level details of their policies. So it's important to give your staff readily available information about coverage, balances, and answers to frequently asked questions.
Technology can help you streamline processes at the front desk to facilitate collection at time of service, provided that you invest in staff training, said Colleen Fusetti, a director at FluidEdge Consulting in Malvern, Pa.
"You need to put a lot of emphasis on training staff to use the technology and understand patient balances and payment options so that they, in turn, can educate the patient," she said. "The ability to collect drops considerably after the patient walks away from the front desk."
Fusetti and other revenue cycle management experts also offered these tips for getting the most out of your technology tools to improve patient collections:
• Set up a patient portal. The portal allows patients to check their eligibility and claims data and view or pay their balances online.
• Integrate an insurance eligibility service into your practice management and EHR systems. Some services allow you to run a verification check on every patient scheduled for a visit over the next few days so that you can reach out to patients in advance to get new insurance information, if needed.
• Use an automated appointment reminder service. The services not only remind patients about upcoming appointments but also link patients to the portal where they can see any pending balances, make payments, and review their coverage before arriving.
• Consider online credit card processing. You can accept credit or debit card payments from any Internet-enabled device linked to a mobile card swiper.
• Set up automatic payments. Many merchant service companies offer an option to keep patients' credit card information on file securely. After discussing financial responsibility for a future procedure or service, patients can decide whether to authorize a one-time payment pending final calculation of their bill or set up a payment plan with recurring payments.
• Take advantage of online resources. The AMA offers a Point-of-Care Pricing Toolkit free to its members. The resource provides tools to help practices collect what patients owe at the time of service.