The Do's and Don'ts of Patient Collections Practices

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Justin Horrocks

In recent years, the entire health care industry has become more aggressive in its collection practices. With the ever-rising costs associated with health care, it is extremely important to the livelihood of any facility to get the maximum reimbursement which largely relies on patient payments.

Deductibles, copays and coinsurance amounts can add up to lots of dollars loss if sufficient efforts are not made to collect these out of pocket expenses from your patients.

Collecting the patient responsibility is just as important as collecting from the insurance companies. But when do aggressive collection procedures cross the line to delivering poor customer service?

Here are some collection Do's and Don'ts.

Do

Advise patients prior to their visit of your collection policy preferably during scheduling. This allows the patient to prepare to make payment prior to arriving in the medical office.  This is especially important for patients that have to meet a deductible or coinsurance dollars towards the out of pocket expenses. When patients are aware in advance, they are more likely to make their payment upfront.

Make sure you have signs posted in your office advising patients of your collection procedures. One important part of encouraging patients to make upfront payments is to consistently remind them whether through documentation, signs, information pamphlets, or during the scheduling process.



Offer discounts for self-pay patients as an incentive to pay their bills in a timely manner. Insured patients receive discounts through their insurance companies but self-pay patients are responsible for their full payment. Offering them a discount to pay in a timely fashion can help improve cash flow.



Make available different payment options for patients that have high out of pocket expenses. Out of pocket expenses can sometimes be thousands of dollars. Offering payment plans is good for patient satisfaction.

Require patients to make "good faith" payments. If your patients are not paying their balance in full, having them pay a portion of the payment upfront is a show of commitment to their financial responsibility and their health care.

Don't

Let patients continue to accrue bills they cannot pay for unless it is an emergency. Letting patients continue to receive payment without making any payments sends the wrong message. 

Send accounts to collections without providing adequate time for patients to make payment arrangements. Collection agencies do not have the best reputation and can discourage patients from returning to receive treatment.  Allow them adequate time to make payments before turning them over.

Ignore delinquent bills. Once services have been provided, patients don't have the urgency to pay without some prompting. When patients arrive for their visit, remind them of their past due bills and encourage them to make payments.

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