Improve Front Office Collections with 2.5 Simple Sentences
For specialties that receive payment at the time of service, there are many tools to help verify benefits and make it easier to collect payment. Over the 26 years we have spent serving medical practices we have seen many products or services claiming to eliminate patient debt, allow you to easily collect at the time of service, or entirely eliminate the need to send patient statements.
Even with the best medical billing service or in-house billing department a strategy needs to be in place to help make patients aware of their responsibilities. Two simple sentences and two simple pauses (at the right time) can help prevent surprises for the patient and the practice. For this article, we will count the sentences as 1 and the pauses as 0.5 but do not underestimate the importance of a properly timed pause. When it comes to effective collection techniques an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.
Before the Visit
Preparing patients for what they should expect from their first contact goes a long way in helping them to have a good experience and helping the practice to be paid for services provided. The first simple sentence should occur prior to the visit if the patient has insurance. If the patient is insured they should be asked: “Will there be a copay or deductible that applies to your services?” The answer does not matter since you will be verifying benefits prior to the visit. The question is what is important and it should be followed by a pause. The next person to speak should be the patient. This question and pause help set the pattern that it is the patient’s responsibility to be familiar with their insurance. If the patient says “yes” the information should be noted with detail of their copay or deductible amount. If the patient is not familiar with their coverage the staff member should ask them to “Please check with your insurance prior to the visit and if there is a copay or deductible we will collect payment that day.” The purpose of asking the patient about their coverage and mentioning collecting at the time of service is purely to set a pattern of what is expected of the patient. This does not take the place of office staff checking benefits prior to the appointment. When an appointment reminder is made this simple sentence can also be included “If a Copay or Deductible applies to your services please be prepared to pay at your appointment.”
The Day of the Visit
Even if the patient is not familiar with their coverage on the day of their service they have been asked at least once about their copay and deductible and it has been mentioned twice that payment will be collected the day of the service. At this point, practice staff should have already verified benefits so they are aware of copays or deductibles that apply. Whether your office collects payment at check-in or check-out the next key sentence to collect payment is “According to our records your responsibility today is $_______ – How would you like to pay? We accept _____________.” After asking for payment office staff should be trained again about the importance of pausing to waiting for the answer. If it is silent staff member should resist the urge to speak. It is far too easy to start speaking and say something that will reduce the likelihood of collecting payment. Patiently waiting for an answer is a very useful skill in collecting balances.
There are many additional strategies and tools that can be added to help collect patient balances at the time of service. Some of these tools include automated ability to check insurance benefits, automated appointment reminders, ability to have payment authorized in advance, and tools to assist estimating contracted allowable rates. At Medical Management Support Services we have professional medical billing solutions for each of these areas. Even with the best medical billing service or in-house billing department, there is nothing that replaces the need to clearly set the expectations for the patient. The 2.5 sentences we reviewed are small but powerful and assist the patient and medical practice to avoid surprises and collect payment efficiently at the time of service.