In an ideal world, all medical billing collection would be prompt and paid in full. Patients would pay their co-pays at the window upon completion of their appointment, and balances would be paid in a timely manner by both insurance company and patient alike. Since we all know that isn’t the reality 100% of the time, a good strategy for collecting balances is crucial to any practice.
Some practitioners are naturally hesitant to turn their patient accounts over to a medical billing collection company. After all, the relationships formed with patients are at the heart of the practice, and damaging those relationships with hardball collections tactics is detrimental to all parties involved. A delicate balance, however, can be achieved with the right medical billing collections practices.
David and Amy, two of our partners here at Everything Medical Billing who have run a successful medical billing practice from home for over 21 years have a great deal of practical experience and have offered the following tips when considering the best way to achieve maximum collection rates without negatively impacting patient relationships. Read on for their advice:
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First, and most obvious, look for reputable and experienced medical acceptance companies, not general industry collection agencies.
Consider, for example, if your specialty is psychology. Many psych patients are dealing with issues that impact their emotional well being, some to the extent where the added stress of collections could be detrimental to their health.
A general industry collections agent probably does not have experience dealing both firmly but sensitively with psych patients; using strong-arm collections tactics could have serious consequences on a patient whom, for example, you just kept from committing suicide a few months ago.
A collections agent who has experience in this field does, however, and will not only work to collect past due bills, but will do so in a manner which is sensitive to the situation of the patient. David has, unfortunately, called into similar circumstances, and being in the medical billing field helped him tremendously in dealing with such sensitive situations.
Similarly, a collections agency that specializes in chasing down deadbeat Dads who don’t pay their child support are probably not a good match for dealing sensitively with your patient who is recovering from heart surgery. Choosing credit collection services with specific experience in the medical field will both maximize results and benefit your patients.
Be skeptical of Flat Fee Collections. While the flat fee collections approach is often cheaper initially, you have to wonder how motivated the medical collection agencies are goingto be to collect your money when they have already been paid theirs upfront.
Most collection agencies work on a percentage basis and do not get paid unless you get paid, unless you have chosen an “early out ” program. (“Early Out” refers to outsourcing your unpaid claims at an earlier time than the more familiar AR Recovery Program, which is usually after 120 days.)
When David and Amy first started their medical billing business from home, they initially pitched potential clients with a Flat Fee rate, thinking it would be more attractive to the doctors. However, what actually appealed to the practitioners is someone who had a vested interest in collecting the maximum–the more the collection agent collects for the practice, the more they actually earn themselves. That’s a win-win that usually ends up netting more money than the flat fee would have “saved” the practice.
- Be Sure They Are Insured and Bonded. This ensures that in the event of a lawsuit, the company will have the financial resources to pay for any related legal fees.
- Insist on a Hold Harmless Agreement. This written agreement will protect you from any legal liability if the agency violates any collections laws or practices. If you do not get this agreement in writing, you may be held liable for their collections practices since you hired them to do your collections.
- Ascertain the Medical Bill Collection Success Rate. Obviously, the higher the success rate the better, but keep in mind that the percentage they charge will be higher as well.
- Do they employ Skip-Tracing? Patients who have moved and not left a forwarding address–whether deliberately skipping town on a debt or simply not remembering to contact your office–can be difficult to track down. Using a medical bad debt collections service which employs this technique can increase your collection rate.
- Dig deeper to ensure the collections company really specialilzes in Medical Collections. Many claim to, but going deeper into their website you will find they “specialize” in many industries. Ideally, the medical field should be primarily, or preferably, their only focus.
- Look for a practice that uses Patient Scoring. With Patient Scoring, patients are essentially given a credit score which indicates their likelihood of paying. Those patients who are likely to pay are kept beyond the traditional time limit when they are turned over to a collection agency because their good “patient score” means they will probably pay without the assistance of collections. Sending fewer accounts to collections means the medical practice gets to keep more of the revenue collected. Traditionally, this feature has only been available for hospitals or very large physician’s groups, but increasingly it is becoming available to smaller practices.
Additional Collections Resources
- Sample Medical Collection Letters This series of three letters, which escalate in tone and urgency, can help you collect on your past due accounts.
- Medical Billing Collection Resources
If you are considering doing your own medical billing collections, these resources and links will help you to stay in compliance with the many related Federal and State laws.
- Get More Patients to Pay on the Day of Service Following these four steps will increase timely payments and reduce your number of past due accounts.