Healthcare companies strive to provide the best quality of value based care to the largest quantity of patients. This win-win situation rewards consumers with good health and providers with consistent profits. To maintain this delicate balance, however, you need to streamline and optimize the patient collections process, investing profits back into the patients who need your care services. These patient collections and medical billing tips are essential in learning how to grow your practice.
This guide will break down four key patient collections best practices:
- Developing a comprehensive collections strategy and ensuring awareness of it
- Offering a variety of payment options for patients, including upfront payments
- Utilizing all available technology and software for collections, including portals
- Outsourcing patient collection and other tasks to external service providers
Ready to optimize your collections strategy and bottom line? Great. First, let’s take a look at some common challenges these practices can help solve.
Common Pitfalls and Challenges in Payment Collections
Patient payment collection should ideally be a straightforward process. Unfortunately, several key factors convene to make it difficult for healthcare providers. The first involves a lack of clear and consistent billing procedures across different providers. Patients don’t know what to expect, which can lead to confusion and potential issues with payments. Automation can help with this.
Another major issue stems from uncertainty with respect to healthcare costs. Unlike in other industries, there is little price transparency in healthcare. Less than half of all patients are given an estimate of what a treatment will cost, per one 2016 survey.1 This is part of the reason patients struggle to pay for services, in addition to high costs and unstable insurance coverage.
Best Practice #1: Develop a Patient Collection Strategy
The first and arguably most important practice is to take a proactive, intentional approach to planning and strategizing for patient collections. This is less a standalone practice than a family of interconnected sensibilities and actions. It should involve all stakeholders on your internal team, such as staff involved in client interactions related to collections, as well as patients.
An example of an effective plan is one that is customized to your particular clientele and flexible enough to meet the future needs of prospective clients. This includes allowing for multiple payment options (see #2 below) and utilizing all available technology to make payments easier to collect.
To that effect, comprehensive planning is key.
Training and Communication for Staff and Client Awareness
To maximize your patient collection strategy, you’ll want to ensure awareness and buy-in across your whole staff. The best way to do this is through sustained training.
Exercises and workshops to educate staff on the strategy can include:
- Dissemination of strategic plan literature and quizzes to assess staff awareness
- Workshops for any new payment or collections technology offered to patients
- Real-time exercises that model complex or challenging collections scenarios
In addition, you need to ensure awareness not only across your staff, but also across all your clientele. Consider extending staff-facing training materials to willing patient participants, or develop additional literature devoted to educating patients about collections.
Best Practice #2: Offer a Variety of Payment Options
Another key element of patient collections is meeting patients where they are in terms of payment methodologies. Rather than setting up one or two specific payment options, then expecting clients to adhere to them, you should make things as easy as possible to avoid client errors. Most Americans (70%) use multiple forms of payment for all their bills and expenses.2
In a healthcare organization, you’re likely to see a combination of payment types, including:
- Insurance coverage, supplemented by “out of pocket” deductibles and copays
- Cash, checks, and debit card or bank-number payments from a checking account
- Credit card payments or loans borrowed against a medical or personal line of credit
To prevent potentially costly issues arising from patients’ inability or unwillingness to change the methods they are most accustomed to, you should accept as many forms as possible.
Collect All Payments While Patients Are on Premises
Importantly, you should only “meet them where they are” metaphorically. To make sure that payments are processed and collected correctly, it’s essential that you get patients to complete their insurance claim, billing, and all other payment methodologies while still on your premises.
By allowing patients to leave your practice without finalizing their payments, you open the door to many ways in which those bills can go unpaid, in both good and bad faith. Patients may make honest errors that, if not caught, could delay a payment indefinitely. Some patients may attempt fraudulent methods to avoid billing, such as purposefully using false or incorrect information, then leaving before the “error” gets caught. Keep them around until the transaction clears to avoid unpaid bills.
Best Practice #3: Utilize Patient Collection Technology
Next, you should also consider all available technologies and platforms that you can use to optimize patient payments—for the patient, any staff they interface with, and your overall bottom line. This is especially true in an increasingly mobile and remote environment. Your patients who receive their treatments partially or fully through telehealth should be able to access simple payment platforms alongside their other dashboards or client-facing software.
By reducing friction at the point of sale or payment, you’ll not only facilitate all collections; you’ll set the stage for long-term, lucrative relationships with clients. To do that, you’ll need to automate and streamline payments.
How to Integrate and Optimize a Patient Collection Portal
One straightforward approach to patient collections involves a combination of technology they are likely already familiar with and some more recent innovative methods. Consider these steps:
- You can initiate billing via email sent to the patient, either while they are on premises (with computers/tablets for them to use) or as they are leaving, to respond to at home.
- Clients can elect to save their credit card information in your payment management system for automatic or recurring payments, simplifying future visits over the long term.
- Reminders, follow-ups, patient balance, detailed billing information, and other utilities can be viewed via a patient portal on your website or via a mobile app to maximize accessibility.
Measures like regular follow-ups as push notifications can make billing and collection as simple as possible for your patients, in turn, reducing the likelihood of missed or incorrect payments.
Best Practice #4: Outsource Your payor Contracting
Finally, the last and most comprehensive practice for optimizing patient collections is entrusting some or all of the process to a service provider.
A logical extension of utilizing all of the available technologies at your disposal is turning to Software as a Service (SaaS) and other companies that develop their own platforms or can help you navigate any you choose to use.
A quality managed care solution should help you to maximize the volume of payments you collect, as well as the ease and swiftness with which you collect them. This should all happen irrespective of the diversity in your patient base, the payment methods they use, and any other complicating factors (like a global pandemic).
For that, PayrHealth is your first and best option.
Benefits of the PayrHealth Approach to Managed Care
PayrHealth is dedicated to helping healthcare providers of all shapes and sizes with all elements of payor contract management. Our main suite of services revolves around three key areas, all of which can have major impacts on patient collections:
- payor relationship management – We will help you work directly with payors (insurance companies, etc.) to fully understand and mitigate challenges that lead to payment issues within the payer-provider relationship.
- Contract rate negotiations – In addition, we’ll help you negotiate rates and terms in your payor contracts, including potentially adding on support for collections platforms, etc.
- Hiring more, better staff – We’ll also help to bolster your team with part time, full time, and contract-based workers and resources dedicated specifically to patient collection.
To see how the team at PayrHealth can help you optimize patient collections, contact us today!
- Patient Engagement Hit. Top Challenges to Collecting Patient Financial Responsibility. https://patientengagementhit.com/news/top-challenges-to-collecting-patient-financial-responsibility
- Advanced Data Systems Corporation. 5 Best Practices for Collecting Patient Payments. https://www.adsc.com/blog/best-practices-for-collecting-patient-payments
- Healthcare Financial Management Association. Best Practices for Improving Patient Collections. https://www.hfma.org/topics/hfm/2018/march/59551.html
- Revcycle Intelligence. 3 Patient Collections Best Practices to Boost the Bottom Line. https://revcycleintelligence.com/news/3-patient-collections-best-practices-to-boost-the-bottom-line