Explain your billing policy when patients make their first appointments

June 10, 2012

Is your practice having some collection issues? Discover why clearly explaining your policies early and often can make a difference.

Q: My practice has recently fallen off a little in terms of collecting outstanding accounts. We could use a refresher on implementing an effective collections process. Please help.

Start by explaining the policy on the phone when new patients make their initial appointments. Stress to new patients that you expect to be paid for office services and copayments at the time of the visit, and that you're happy to help them with insurance claims. You'll also want to explain your policy in writing. Consider including your policy in a practice information brochure you give to patients at their first visits. Of course, the brochure won't help much if patients don't read it. It's also smart to write the brochure using 7th-grade-level vocabulary, and keep it brief and positive.

Finally, it's the job of the cashier or the receptionist to review the services rendered with the patient, explain the fees, and ask for payment. To do this, design your checkout counter for privacy. It's helpful to recess the area out of the traffic pattern, and provide sound conditioning, such as acoustical wall coverings, lowered ceilings, and background music in nearby high-traffic areas. It's best to close the goodbye ritual with some other business that doesn't involve the fee. Often, this can include making a return appointment or offering some type of "bonus" service, such as calling the pharmacy, validating parking, or providing a map to the hospital.

Answers to readers' questions were provided by Judy Bee, Practice Performance Group, La Jolla, California. She is also an editorial consultant for Medical Economics. Send your practice management questions to medec@advanstar.com Also engage at http://www.twitter.com/MedEconomics and http://www.facebook.com/MedicalEconomics.

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