Creating a fluid and comprehensive patient intake and billing process will not only minimize the time and resources your staff spends chasing payment, but it will also improve your patient experience overall. Setting expectations with patients from the onset minimizes the chances of human error or misunderstandings, and helps patients stay on top of what they owe, and when. Here are three ways to engage your patients and maintain a successful accounts receivable (AR) cycle.
Before the Time of Service
Incorporate proactive and holistic measures during patient admittance. Ensure that your intake paperwork includes Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) disclosures, which set expectations with patients regarding billing and collection communications from your office. You should also collect email address, cell and home phone numbers, and place of employment during intake, so that a total AR “kit” can be created for each patient with all pertinent billing information. This will minimize administrative runaround for staff trying to keep track of each patient’s information and payment status, making outreach much simpler.
During the Time of Service
From an accounts receivable perspective, the best billing option is always to secure payment from patients at the time of service. For patients with insurance, you can collect the full balance of their procedure, and then refund them once their insurance company remits its portion of the procedure cost. Another approach is to charge the patient for the estimated balance typically expected after submitting the claim to insurance. Setting a standard of collecting payment at the time of service will minimize the chance of unrecoverable receivables later. In order to make this standard more accessible for all patients, it may also be advantageous for your practice to offer third-party financing through a reputable finance partner. This way, you can take the burden of collection out of the equation for your practice, and provide a practical payment solution for your patients.
After the Time of Service
If you prefer not to collect payment from patients at the time of service, a prompt and efficient billing process should be activated almost immediately. If you operate with an electronic billing system, make it a practice-wide standard to make the bill available to the patient immediately. That way, patients understand their responsibilities immediately, minimizing the possibility that the payment responsibility will be forgotten or ignored. If you do not operate with an electronic billing system, plan to send a statement to the patient no later than five days after the procedure date. Providing your patient with a return envelope pre-addressed to your practice pay improve odds of receiving a timely payment, and show your patients that you’re considering their needs as well.
If the patient fails to remit payment after 30 days, your staff should begin collection calls. To maximize chances of success, design a standard script for staff to utilize. These scripts should be simple, straightforward, and compassionate, without being confrontational or overly emotional. Providing training for your staff as well as facilitating role playing with peers is an excellent way to increase comfort with the process so employees feel prepared when entering into receivables conversations. Set a standard cadence for patient outreach, and formalize communication records through reporting so you can track patterns and success.
A third-party collection agency should be engaged after 60 days of non-payment by a patient. Working with a reputable partner will not only increase your chances of securing receivables, but will also offload the administrative burden of collection outreach from your staff.
Not sure if you have the resources or expertise to accomplish your patient collection goals? Engaging a full-service collection partner can maximize repayments for you, and minimize resources spent chasing them.
Jacob Corlyon is Co-Founder and CEO of CCMR3, which provides a suite of collection services for the dental industry. Mr. Corlyon also serves as President of the New York State Collectors Association.