Get it right the first time: collecting patient balances
In today’s healthcare market, patients are increasingly responsible for a greater portion of their medical bills. In fact, a recent TransUnion Healthcare analysis of patient payment responsibility found an 11% increase in average out-of-pocket costs during 2017, increasing from $1,630 in Q4 2016 to $1,813 in Q4 2017. Additionally, this analysis revealed that 49% of patient out-of-pocket costs per healthcare visit were below $500; 39% were $501-$1,000; and 12% were more than $1,000.
High-deductible health plans have lower premiums and higher deductibles than traditional health plans. Employers offer high-deductible health plans as a way to have the employee share a greater portion of the healthcare expense. With these plans, employees are expected to pay some of their medical costs upfront before the plan starts making payments.
With so many patients being responsible for all or part of their medical bills, collecting patient balances at the time of service becomes more important than ever if a physician’s office is to maintain a healthy cash flow. To demonstrate, TransUnion has reported that 68% of patients failed to fully pay off medical bill balances in 2016—a substantial increase from 53 percent in 2015, and 49 percent in 2014. The report anticipates that this number will rise up to 95% by 2020.
Here are 5 strategies to help you in collecting patient balances:
- Do your homework. Verify insurance eligibility before the patient arrives to confirm that insurance is current and covers your services. Know what the patient’s financial responsibility will be, and if a copay is due. Ask for this copay at the time of service.
- Collect what is owed. Check to see if there are any outstanding balances. If there are, have front office staff ask the patient when they arrive, “How would you like to take care of your balance today?” If they cannot pay that day, print an invoice with the due date.
- Make it easy. Accept payments of all types and through your website or patient portal. Have payment plans available for those who need one. If you have the proper system to secure it, consider asking the patient if you can keep a credit card on file.
- Communicate. Make sure that patients are aware of your financial policies – from no-show fees and how copays are collected, to interest on outstanding balances and the amount of time it will take until unpaid balances are turned over to collections. Share this policy in writing and have patients sign it annually.
- Raise the bar. Consider a revenue cycle management (RCM) service to track patients from visit to final payment. RCM, often part of a fully integrated solution that includes electronic health record (EHR) and practice management (PM) solutions, can automate billing duties so that physician staff can concentrate on caring for patients. RCM not only helps with balance management but can also keep up with payment monitoring, coding changes, and insurance plan coverage.
Care for your practice’s financial well-being as you would for your patient. For more information about Quanum RCM call 1.888.835.3409, or read our RCM white paper, How to improve practice financials: A practical guide to revenue cycle management.