A “Modern” Approach
To begin with, look at the way you seek payment for services rendered. The Healthcare Financial Management Association (HFMA) suggests the rise of patient financial responsibility calls for a “modern billing approach.” I’ve visited countless business offices of all sorts of medical groups across America. “Modern” is not the word I’d use to describe the patient payment collection methods used by most. In this digital age and the ubiquity of mobile phones, nearly nine out of 10 healthcare bills go out from medical group offices in paper form. In contrast, 56% of all bills presented to Americans are paid online.
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The methods used by retailers and utilities to secure payments from their customers are readily available for you to collect from yours. In addition, you should also look to bill electronically to collect more, reducing significantly the 90-120 day payment cycle created by paper statements and the cost to collect.
Time of Service
But let’s start the collection process before the patient enters the exam room. Time-of-service collection methods are cropping up in medical groups, and for good reason. You can get some portion of the patient’s expected financial obligation immediately to aid cash flow and better manage account receivables. And, if you have an electronic billing capability, the remaining balance can be quickly and easily moved to a digital bill.
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Whether a patient has or doesn’t have insurance, the cash outlay for your treatment may force a patient to choose between paying you or properly feeding their children. Yes, that’s stark but it’s the world some of your patients live in. So give them options as to how they can pay. By offering payment plans, you’re extending the empathy and care shown during treatment to the often and unnecessarily awkward collection process. Here too, systems abound to let you automatically integrate payment plans into an electronic billing process without having to manually call and process these payments each month.
Then there’s the statement itself. Human behavior is such that if one doesn’t understand a bill, it won’t get paid. Far too many medical groups send out statements that are utterly confusing, especially when attempts are made to align charges with an insurer’s Explanation of Benefits. Again, it does not have to be this way. You can provide patients with statements that provide that alignment and clarity