No one likes to deal with medical billing collections; not the doctors, who are frustrated at not being paid for services rendered, not the patients, for whom it is a nuisance at best or a stress inducing nightmare at worst, and not the staff employed to make calls no patient wants to get.
But in order to get paid, good medical debt collection practices are a necessary part of the billing process, and some methods get better results than others.
Employing the best strategies to collect patient balances will help minimize the amounts that need to be sent to Collection Agencies. And hiring Collection Agencies who specialize in your medical field will help increase the percentage of outstanding bills collected. More on those points below....
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By making just a few changes, medical practitioners can increase the likelihood of patients paying on time and reduce the number of bills that end up going to collections.
Let patients know your expectations up front. From the first time the patient calls your office to set up an appointment you should let them know you expect all patients to pay their co pays and/or deductible at the time of the visit.
This should be reinforced again at the time of their first visit both in writing and verbally with one of your staff. Making that expectation known up front will prepare the patient to actually follow through and pay when they reach the checkout window.
Train your staff to collect the copay/deductible at the end of the patient visit at the checkout window. This not only enables you to get your money immediately, but also saves you the time and expense of billing your patients multiple times to get paid, IF you get paid at all.
Provide the ability for your patients to pay by debit and credit card in addition to check. Patients today increasingly expect to be able to use their credit cards; If you have not checked credit card rates in the last several years, you may be pleasantly surprised by how much the rates have gone down. An additional benefit: while your patient may not have the cash to pay their debt in full, they might be able to pay the entire bill using their credit card.
Instruct your staff to work with patients. Some patients are having a difficult time financially due to circumstances beyond their control, such as severe health issues or loss of a job. Have your staff work with these patients to set up a payment plan. If they are making a good-faith effort to pay down their bill, resorting to medical billing collections may not be necessary.
Despite your best efforts with the above steps, it may become necessary at times to get the attention of patients that have the means to pay but have chosen not to. If the patient has not paid at the time of service nor after you have sent their first bill and has not made any effort to contact you about their reason for not paying, then you will want to consider sending a series of letters and ultimately turn them over to a medical debt recovery company.
Some doctors are naturally hesitant to turn their patient accounts over to medical billing collections. Indeed, the doctor-patient relationship is the heart of the practice, and damaging those relationships with hardball collections tactics is detrimental to all parties involved.
One way to best achieve this is to hire a Collection Agency who specializes in your particular field. For example, a psychiatrist should look for Collection Agencies who also specialize in psychiatry so they are trained to deal sensitively with these patients.
A delicate balance of respecting patients circumstances but successfully collecting past due bills can be achieved with the right collections practices.