5 Tips for a More Efficient ASC Collections Process from AdvantEdge Healthcare Solutions

Here are 10 tips to implementing a more efficient and successful ASC collections process from Bill Gilbert, vice president of marketing; and Brice Voithofer, vice president of ASC services, AdvantEdge Healthcare Solutions.

1. Develop an efficient process. Mr. Gilbert and Mr. Voithofer say it's important that staff view the collections process as "a well-defined set of steps to follow consistently." They recommend creating a set of simple steps and training each and every staff member the "end-to-end" process — everything from the first patient contact at the surgeon's office through the final payment.

2. Make the process patient-centric.
Making sure patients are aware of their financial responsibilities is important because they're often more focused on clinical issues the day of the procedure. "This means that the center needs to assume a proactive role in talking to patients about payment alongside the clinical information. You can never start too early in the process," they wrote. They recommend talking with patients about payment when the procedure is scheduled.

3. Ensure staff is well-trained and in the right positions.
Mr. Gilbert and Mr. Voithofer say that in order for the patient-centric process to work, staff has to be well-trained and have the right skills and education to effectively follow the defined processes. They say it's helpful to create a list of the skills and responsibilities required for each role on your team. For example, the scheduler, front desk staff and A/R follow-up staff must each be able to ask for a payment effectively, while only a coder needs ASC coding knowledge.

4. Offer the patient payment options. In order to make it easier for patients to pay their portion, offer them options to pay, Mr. Gilbert and Mr. Voithofer say. These include a credit card, any available financing options or even payment plans. It's also very helpful for patients to have an estimate of how much they'll owe going into the procedure. In many cases, you can even collect a good faith estimate of what the patient owes at time of surgery. A 2009 McKinsey study found that two-thirds of patients are willing to pay a good faith estimate of their obligation at time of service.

5. Don't get burned by repeat non-paying patients. With an increase in high deductible plans and general economic challenges, more patients are having their bills sent to collections, and this will often lead an ASC to eventually write-off unpaid co-pays and deductibles. Considering patients can be repeat customers to an ASC, some non-paying patients will eventually return. "There's nothing worse than having someone you did a procedure for never pay, and now you're seeing them again and you're likely just going to take another hit," says Mr. Voithofer.

He recommends developing a policy and procedure followed by schedulers where the scheduler looks on a list within your billing system and identifies if a patient previously had a balance the ASC wrote off or is currently in the active collections process. "Then have the [scheduler] educate patients that they're not having another procedure unless they pay the outstanding balance, and remember to avoid any issues which could be classified as abandonment," says Mr. Voithofer. "Putting this tool in place is easy and could generate significant revenues — it can be a few hundred dollars written off with each account, and that adds up very quickly."

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