10 Tips to Help Improve Patient Payment and Collections

Not long ago, many patients enjoyed benefit-rich insurance programs with low deductibles, small out-of-pocket expenses and 100 percent coverage provisions. However, now a patient’s insurance program is typically quite different— high deductibles prevail, health care savings accounts are common and co-pays are required for many benefit provisions. Read more for 10 tips to improve your patient payment collections and better manage your revenue cycle.

04.01.2016
Not long ago, many patients enjoyed benefit-rich insurance programs with low deductibles, small out-of-pocket expenses and 100 percent coverage provisions. However, now a patient’s insurance program is typically quite different—high deductibles prevail, health care savings accounts are common and co-pays are required for many benefit provisions.Since more patients are responsible for a greater portion of their medical expenses, patient payments are contributing to a larger percentage of a practice’s revenue. According to Practice Perspectives on Patient Payments research by MGMA, providers today must collect $1 of every $4 directly from patients, and with 30% of patients walking out the door before they’ve paid anything, this task becomes increasingly difficult.1 If these patient payments are not collected in a timely manner, a practice can fall seriously behind in accounts receivable.Here are 10 tips to help improve your patient payment collections and better manage your revenue cycle:

  1. Determine eligibilityCheck each patient’s insurance eligibility prior to the appointment. According to CAQH and Milliman, Inc.’s U.S. Healthcare Efficiency Index, checking patient insurance coverage manually costs an average of $6.83 per verification.2 TriZetto Provider Solutions offers electronic eligibility tools that quickly provide verification of a patient’s insurance, often within seconds, which may save your practice as much as one hour for every 30 patients checked.
  2. Communicate cost of serviceInform patients of the expected balance due when they schedule their appointments, and reiterate this again at the time of service. Reminding patients of the payment due prior to the appointment can improve the chances that they arrive prepared to pay.
  3. Define financial policiesCreate a brief document outlining your office’s payment policies to share with patients as part of the standard check-in process. This helps your front office staff explain what payment is expected and answer any patient questions.
  4. Collect at time of serviceIf possible, collect the patient’s payment at the time of service. Sending statements costs money and staff time, and you are less likely to get paid once a patient leaves your office.
  5. Lower barriers to paymentProvide several payment options, such as cash, check and credit, debit and health savings account cards, so patients are more likely to be able to pay their portion at the time of service. If your office needs an easy way to process credit or debit transactions, consider investing in a card swipe reader that can be connected to your office computer with a USB port. TriZetto Provider Solutions also offers an easy-to-use credit card processing tool that integrates with financial statements.
  6. Institute payment plans
    Offer a few payment program options to help ease the burden some patients face when paying for services. For example, an installment plan that spreads the payment over several months may be more manageable for some patients, which may increase your likelihood of receiving the full payment amount.
  7. Transition to e-statementsEnable electronic payment collection portals, like Healthcare – RCM Patient Exchange tool, so patients can submit their payments conveniently from home at any time of day, often resulting in quicker collection of payment. Online payment can also reduce paper, printing and postage costs related to sending patient invoices.
  8. Offer automate recurring paymentOffer automated recurring payment programs for patients who visit your practice frequently for routine procedures, which can simplify the billing process for both the patient and your staff.
  9. Establish office billing standardsWrite policies that help staff manage billing software more efficiently by establishing standards for when they should post a charge or send a patient balance statement. Completing these tasks in a timely manner can increase the chance that patient payments will be collected earlier, potentially improving your cash flow.
  10. Process billing regularlyPerform patient billing at least once a week to avoid a delay in patient payments. Processing billing using Healthcare – RCM electronic Patient Statements will enable you to reduce the time-consuming process of printing and mailing statements and manage collections more efficiently, typically saving one hour and $30 for every 100 statements. Check out our ROI calculator to see how your practice might save.

As patient payments become a greater portion of your revenue, educate patients about their payment responsibilities, and establish processes, goals and technology to help your practice improve patient payment.

For a five-minute assessment to learn how Healthcare – RCM tools can help simplify your patient payment collections, email rcm@vowelsolutions.com

1Margolis, J., & Pope, C. (14, April 01). Perspective on Patient Payments. MGMA Connexion, 1. Retrieved April 01, 15, from http://www.mgma.com/Libraries/Assets/Practice Resources/Publications/MGMA Connexion/2010/Perspective-on-patient-payments-MGMA-Connexion-April-2010.pdf
22013 CAQH Index, CAQH, and Milliman, Inc. 2013 U.S. Healthcare Efficiency Index. May 5, 2014

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