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Get Paid in Full: 4 Experts on Maximizing ASC Patient Payment Collections

Valora Gurganious, senior management consultant for Doctors Management: The first and best way to speed patient collections is to avoid that having that patient balance accrue at all. During initial evaluations by the physician, be certain that the staff verifies insurance eligibility and co-pays prior to the patient's visit. Be certain that the staff collects the co-pay or co-insurance on the date of service. Reiterate to the staff that this co-pay collection rule is required under your insurance provider agreement with their own insurance carrier and does not indicate that your practice is being difficult.

If the patient is unable to pay that co-pay on the date of service and has not received a special exemption in advance from the physician, the staff can either offer to reschedule the patient for a new appointment at a time when the patient can meet the co-payment or offer to accept an alternate form of payment (credit card, cash or check). Some practices even consider pre-qualifying the patient in three minutes for a healthcare credit card like GE Capital's CareCredit, but your practice must agree to become a registered merchant with this type of credit vendor.  

In the event that the patient does accrue a balance payable to the practice, send patient statements every three weeks after the date of service. Emphasize that the practice would like to resolve the account at their earliest convenience, including accepting installment payments over a maximum of two to three months. If the balance remains unresolved after 120 days, consider permitting a third party collections company to resolve the account. Often, when the patient observes that a third party has become involved in the working out the balance, it is a more serious situation that may harm their credit. While the practice pays a fee for third party collections, agents are often more effective in speeding collections than having your staff continue to mail statements without response.

Sunni Patterson, president and CEO of RMK Holdings and co-founder of Medical Bill & Claim Resolution:
Just like a new car depreciates immediately after driving off the lot, so does your cash flow when you allow patients to leave without making a payment. In fact, if you don't collect co-pays and deductibles at the time of service, the chance of collection drops 16 percent. Let's say you have 1,000 patients a month, each with a $25 co-pay. Seventy-five percent of the time, your staff asks for payment but 25 percent of the time they do not. That's $6,000 plus per month that will incur additional follow-up cost in time and supplies, for balances which you may never collect.

Employ caring, attentive front desk staff who can educate patients while they are in the waiting room. There's nothing worse than being greeted by a harried and rude front desk individual who leaves your patients feeling like they are the ones intruding on your practice. This also gives your practice a very unprofessional appearance and can quickly tarnish your image.

Bill patients in a timely manner rather than waiting for delayed insurance payments. Make sure your billing team receives charges and payments in a timely manner. This area alone significantly affects your cash flow. Also, have a competitive back-office approach that gets new bills out the door as quickly as possible. Your patients and your bottom line will appreciate this.

Michelle Dunn, author and founder of CreditandCollections.com: Make arrangements for payment at the time of service or before if you can, don't wait until later. Be pro-active by following up with them, staying on top of the balance by communicating with them and being able to set up realistic payment plans. Bill them at the time of service and have a policy that they pay something at the time of service, even if it is just the co-pay. Don't let them leave without paying something. In my experience some medical offices and hospitals only bill once a month. Do not do this if you want to increase cash flow and keep your bill on the mind of your patient. Bill at the time of service so you will get paid quicker.

Chris Klitgaard, president of MediRevv: In collecting patient due receivables, the first step is to simply ask. Too often providers feel that asking a patient to pay for the services they are about to receive, or have just received, as an imposition. In reality, it is actually their responsibility. Think about it — you take your car in for service, and you don’t get it back until you pay. Providers need to consider a similar approach in healthcare. The importance of this approach is that as more of a healthcare bill becomes the patient's responsibility (high dollar deductible plans and HSAs are becoming the norm), a provider must protect his or her interest.

When collecting potentially large balances for outpatient surgeries, it is important to have a well-defined policy that can be deployed consistently by those collecting the balances. Regardless of whether a provider is collecting a flat dollar amount, a percent of the total charges, or a patient's actual out of pocket, all tools must be clear and concise. For example, prompt pay, financial assistance or charity discounts as well as payment plan guidelines must enable a cordial yet expectation-setting discussion between the provider staff and patients. Ensuring this ultimately increases a provider's cash collections and establishes a sense of responsibility with the patient.

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