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Patient collections in the time of COVID-19 — 2 ASC leaders discuss

With the COVID-19 pandemic continuing to affect patient and practice finances, Becker's ASC Review asked surgery center leaders about the state of revenue cycle processes.

Question: How has your approach to the revenue cycle and patient collections changed during the pandemic?

Note: Responses were lightly edited for style and clarity.

Becky Ziegler-Otis, administrator at Ambulatory Surgical Center of Stevens Point (Wis.):

Our center's approach to the revenue cycle and patient collections has for the most part remained consistent during the pandemic. We have continued with our upfront patient financial counseling and providing anticipated out-of-pocket expense quotes, which is even more important as patients make decisions about having a procedure performed and the personal financial ramifications. Once the procedure is performed, the patient collection process has also remained consistent with the provision of regular patient statements and offering payment plans.  We have for the most part continued with our existing payment plan methodology, however, on a case-by-case basis, we do allow smaller payments with extended payment plans.

Michael Lutz, chief operating officer at Associates in Ophthalmology/Associates Surgery Centers in West Mifflin, Pa.: At the start of the pandemic, we stopped sending delinquent accounts to our collections agency as part of our normal process. Out of compassion for our patients impacted by our state's stay-at-home order, we held accounts from late March until early May, when the state's stay-at-home order expired and businesses began to reopen. As far as the revenue cycle is concerned, we began experiencing a lag in insurance companies processing payment and thus increasing our accounts receivables. This slow processing of payment was related in part to staffing challenges in several insurance companies. Based on this slower receipt of payments, we emphasized to our front desk employees the importance of collecting all outstanding balances at the time of check-in. Finally, we had planned on improving our online bill pay options in 2021. However, we have reprioritized this project and have begun a timeline to implement a new online bill pay solution to increase patient collections. Our change in priority is also related to the pandemic, in that we want to reduce the number of paper statements and checks we process, and make this process as convenient as possible for our patients to make payment.

To participate in future Q&As, administrators should email Angie Stewart:

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