COVID-19 has taken a toll on the economy. Together with rising unemployment, stagnant cash flow and reduced consumer spending, businesses of every kind are finding new ways of ensuring they keep their doors open. Although an essential service, medical practices of all specialities experienced a dip in revenue during the stringent stages of lockdown. Fortunately, the trend is moving back towards pre-COVID revenue but, in an economic climate that will likely be strained for some time to come, it’s as important as ever to ensure your patient payment collection processes are supportive of the new COVID-19 norm.
In this blog, we share 4 key steps to ensure your collection process remains effective.
Step 1: Do an inventory of your technology
The first step to ensuring the success of your new COVID-19 patient payment collection process, is to know where you are now. It’s a good idea to make a list of your current patient payment collection tools and processes to determine exactly what tools and resources you already have to be able to plan ahead. Taking a step back to map it out will help you identify bottlenecks or gaps in your processes and what changes to make to get you to your end goal of improved revenue collections. While making your list, here are some useful technologies you should consider (if you don’t already have in place) and how they can help your practice collect better:
- An online calendar – helps you capture & store patient information.
- Automated patient benefit checks – will tell you if a patient is fully, partly or not covered at all.
- Appointment SMS reminders – prevents no-shows which helps minimise lost revenue.
- Payment SMS reminders – helps collect cash with little to no effort.
- Real-time electronic claiming – gives you instant feedback as to whether a claim will be paid or not.
- Automated reconciliation – will save your practice hours of patient collection admin
Step 2: Update your payment policy
When last did you review your payment policy? COVID-19 may have required you to bend some rules or relax policies when it comes to patient collections. Now is a good time to review your policy and update it accordingly with any changes you’ve implemented that you want to keep.
When reviewing your payment policy keep the following in mind:
- Your payment policy is the basis of your patient collection journey. It should clearly outline the responsibilities of both the patient and the practice.
- Update or include the payment options your practice accepts. You may have implemented cashless or contactless payment options. Be sure to include them in your payment policy.
- Payment terms and processes for collecting payments and reimbursement from medical aids, particularly if you have recently taken your practice digital.
- Easy-to-understand language explaining patient responsibility.
Lastly, don’t forget to share changes to your practice payment policy with your staff. They are at the frontend of collecting payments and should be able to communicate with patients clearly and professionally.
For more information on what to include in your payment policy, click here.
Step 3: Consult your staff
COVID-19 might have forced sudden changes in the day-to-day running of your practice. Now is a time to engage with staff to see areas within your current patient payment collection process that may need further refinement. After all, they play a critical role in patient collections and will most likely have the greatest insight. Here are a few ways to engage your staff:
- Get their input on the practice’s financial policy. Along with making them aware of any changes in policies as soon as possible, it is also worth considering their experience with patients. It might be time to schedule in-house training to make sure that each staff member is well versed in the practice’s financial policy.
- Engage staff on technology. Having the right technology in place is only half of the equation. Talk to staff about the ease of use of your current medical billing software. Do they know how to use all the features? Is it enhancing your patient collection processes or are there missing ‘features’ or gaps?
- Listen to their experience with collecting from patients. Talking to patients about payments can be challenging, especially now when many are feeling the effects of the economy. Ensure that when you are reviewing your patient collection processes, your staff feel comfortable communicating with patients effectively and politely across a variety of scenarios.
For tips on how to talk to your patients about co-payments, click here.
Step 4: Review your practice’s expected vs actual performance
If pandemics like COVID-19 are expected to become the norm, it’s a good time to evaluate your practice’s expected performance vs it’s actual performance, and adjust accordingly. Your digital practice management system should be able to generate relevant and insightful reports into your financial, operational and clinical data to allow you to set appropriate benchmarks for your practice performance and finances. Your reports should allow you to:
- Uncover useful trends such as consultation type and time, billing, bad debt, patient retention, etc.
- Identify risk areas that need attention, such as retrospective invoicing and claim submission, manual appointment bookings, staff shortages or reduced staff compliment, etc.
- Eliminate waste in all forms. Cancel goods and services that you don’t use, from technology to practice infrastructure.
- Improve spending and efficiency; find areas and tools that you can use to get more for your money.
For some key financial metrics your practice should be using, click here.
Healthbridge has been the technology partner of choice for medical practices for over 20 years. To get in touch to find out how you can bolster your patient collection journey, click here.