7 Ways to Improve Patient Collections for Your Medical Practice

January 11, 2021

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In recent times, hospitals and other medical practices have been grappling with patient collections due to payment lags and an increase in patient responsibility. 

With greater deductibles, out-of-pocket costs, and cost-sharing arrangements, patients are finding their financial responsibility rising significantly.

This steady rise in patient financial responsibility is attributable to a greater portion of healthcare revenue.

With this shift in patient collections, hospitals and medical practices must implement strategies to collect all the revenue owed to them in a timely and efficient manner. 

Successful patient collection strategies recognize the fundamental concept of effective communication and education of medical debt owed. 

It’s crucial for such patient collection strategies to highlight that it costs two to three times as much to collect from patients as it does to collect from payers. 

That’s why, costly programs resulting in ineffective statements and calls that don’t pay off, should be avoided. 

According to the Trends in Healthcare Payments Tenth Annual Report: 2019,

“The payment experience needs the immediate attention of payers to repair the deep disconnect with consumers. 

The majority of payers acknowledge that payment preferences are a priority for their organizations.

However, less than half of payers place a priority on improving and delivering payment solutions to consumers in the near future. 

Payers can help to sustain and improve member satisfaction and loyalty by adjusting these strategies and putting consumer strategies into quick action..”

Best practices in patient collection strategy start from the first touch point when scheduling an appointment and continue all the way through providing easy and convenient payment options.

If your medical practice is struggling with its revenue cycle management due to a poor patient collection infrastructure, now is the time to fix it. 

After all, poor practices in patient billing and collections will weigh down your medical practice with revenue issues. 

hospital bankruptcy

The graph above (courtesy Bloomberg) shows the rising cases of healthcare bankruptcy filed by hospitals/medical practices.

These numbers are a testament towards the dire need for making patient collections as seamless as possible.

In this article, we’ve highlighted 7 actionable ways to increase your medical practice revenue by streamlining your patient payments collection system. 

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7 Strategies for Enhancing Patient Collections

 

1) Collect Accurate Patient Information

Dr. Shafaq Janjua - Manager, Reconciliation & Collections at Accumed advises:

It is crucial to collect the correct and complete information of the patient.

Insurance card details or ID number along with the knowledge of the right payer will help claims to be sent accurately and expedite the collection process.

To support the provider, most payers now have eligibility to check portals - use of which will help reduce losses and improve collections.

Although patient details make the base of the claim, it's not the only parameter;

Coding, approvals, medical documentation, processing timelines etc. have to be accurate too.

Moreover, regular trends and patterns need to be analyzed to understand causes that hinder collection. 

For cash patients, it's important to have a clear breakdown of each service to ensure clarity.

And lastly, provide easy payment options to facilitate faster clearing of dues.

 

2) Be Transparent about your Billing Policy & Pricing Strategy:

Patients often avoid medical bills because it turns out higher than what they anticipated.

If they’re made aware of charges since the beginning, they’ll be better prepared to pay off the bills sooner.

Your staff should make it a point to check the patient’s coverage in advance and educate them to avoid nasty numerical surprises.

Ensure that you share the pricing strategy as well as billing policy with patients.

The documented policies should ideally be posted in the medical practice premises, website, patient portal and other platforms of information.

Should there be any changes to the policies, they should be updated on all communication channels immediately. 

 

3) Implement a Billing Management System: 

Tracking unpaid bills can be made more efficient and convenient using billing management systems.

This software acts as a hub of patient data containing details of past due bills, while adding the functionality to automate notifications.

Although it incurs a significant investment, the benefits far outweigh the cost.

With features like reminders, appointments and unpaid dues alert, you can improve the patient collection process significantly and thus reduce strain on your staff.

The billing management system can also be integrated with a patient portal to collect payments, making it even more convenient to collect unpaid dues faster. 

 

4) Have Multiple Payment Plans to Facilitate Easier Collections:

Not all patients are able to pay the whole medical bill upfront.

That’s why it’s crucial to have multiple payment methods to make it easier for them.

It’s a social responsibility of medical practices to offer instalment plans to struggling patients.

The terms and conditions behind each mode of payment should be clearly communicated to patients to facilitate easier understanding of policies and thus process payments faster.

The following infographic (courtesy of InstaMed) sheds light on patient behavior in the case of payment preferences:

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5) Train Staff to Maintain Decorum & Ensure Adequate Clinical Documentation:

It’s quite common for medical staff to feel exhausted and burnt out from repeated attempts to follow up with patients.

This necessitates training and development programs for staff members, teaching them how to be polite and respectful while ensuring a pleasant patient experience.

The need for crystal-clear communication and patience is sacrosanct for staff dedicated towards patient collection.

They should also be trained to maintain adequate data collection and clinical documentation to ensure there are no leaks among medical transactions and billings.

Check out our CLINICAL DOCUMENTATION IMPROVEMENT PROGRAMS to upskill your staff in this regard.


6) Follow-up with Slow-payers more Frequently:

Payers that are lax towards their billing obligations need extra attention to help medical practices maintain their cash flow.

Regular contact (for example - once a week) can expedite patient collections, helping you conclude medical transactions faster.

Do ensure that the follow-ups are done during business hours at times that are tentatively convenient for patients, so that they don’t feel harassed or agitated by your medical practice. 


7) Eliminate Paper With Increased Digital Adoption: 

Digitizing your billing operations helps you save time and money while improving processing times.

Paper-based and manual collections eat up blocks of time that could have been spent on enhancing the patient experience.

The lack of adoption towards digital billing systems affects revenue cycle management while impacting loyalty among patients.

Digitized patient collection systems that use data processing and automation improve patient sentiment and provide assurance to meet increasing patient demands. 


 

Additional Reading:

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Team Accumed

Written by Team Accumed