As a medical professional, your number one priority is providing excellent healthcare services to your patients. However, even though you’re obliged to provide care to those who need it, it’s not sustainable to run a business without considering your cash flow or ensuring that those services are appropriately invoiced and paid for by your patients. It’s a reality that when patients don’t pay their bills, the profitability of your practice declines.
But how can you maintain healthy financial management of your practice and maintain good patient relationships while following up on overdue payments?
Optimal patient interaction
It might seem trivial but the placement of the receptionist and accounts desk are very important to ensure patients have instant interaction with a member of staff upon their arrival and departure from the practice. They are necessary touch points to inform patients about your practice’s standardised payment policy, the approximate cost for their doctor’s consultation or to make them aware of any co-payments that may apply outside of their insurance. Healthbridge data shows that patients who are made aware of payments due before and directly after a consult increases the likelihood of settlement exponentially so it’s crucial that making sure patients naturally move past these desks on their way in and out. Even as simple as direct visibility of the billing personnel will help ensure that they settle their bill before leaving the premises or communicate with the practice staff if they need to make and commit to a payment arrangement.
Of the utmost importance is to ensure that both you and your staff are aware of your medical practice’s financial protocols. Staff should be trained to suitably communicate with patients in a polite, yet transparent way, to educate them about their medical debt and answer any questions that may arise. Staff must also be knowledgeable about medical aid reimbursements and any other financial policies.
The most effective method of ensuring the patient’s bill is paid is at the time of service. It’s therefore important for billing staff to have the knowledge and skill to understand the importance of timely payments and to clearly communicate the amount due to the patient. This can be enabled with real-time communication with the medical aid, to know whether patients have funds for the consult or will be paying out-of-pocket. If there are certain circumstances that deem the patient unable to settle their bill at the time, they should be presented with time-based payment options or even a discount to incentivise prompt payment. Such practices are especially useful when dealing with uninsured or underinsured patients.
Staff should also be trained on how to effectively and patiently deal with patients that are overdue with their payments. In such scenarios, staff should be informed on how to provide patients with information on practice rates and other methods of payment.
When generating invoices, it’s important to check and verity the patient’s contact details to ensure that they can be contacted should they fail to settle their invoice. It’s recommended to also generate informative patient statements that not only tell the patient of the total balance due, but also of the services provided and performed as well as the contact name, address and telephone number of the medical practice for statement inquiries. This extra information can go a long way in getting the patient to understand their financial responsibility and responding to their overdue medical bills.
To settle the bills of both private and medical aid patients it’s highly beneficial to have a real-time submission system in place to speed up the payment process. Incorporating a digital medical billing solution into your practice’s workflow can streamline bill collections by tracking past due bills, automating late fees and identifying patients who are behind in payments. While the system may be seen as a pricey investment initially, there will be a massive ROI in terms of your improved payment collections rate.
To motivate patients to settle their bills it’s important to make the process as easy and simple as possible. In addition to accepting payment methods such as cash and card, it could be beneficial to look into incorporating app-based payment methods into your medical practice. Sureswipe, SnapScan, and Yoco offer flexible, secure and instant payment options to suit both you and your patients.
Often payments can be delayed because of a misunderstanding between insurers and patients about their cover and obligations outside of that cover. It is worth investing the time and resources to upskill your staff about how to appropriately manage patients who are in arrears and encourage patients to manage queries with medical aids after the account with the practice has been settled. Dealing with patients with respect, empathy and politeness can go a long way in ensuring your patients pay on time. And while patient collections can be challenging, incorporating the above points into your medical practice’s workflow will enable you to greatly reduce your risk of bad debt and improve your overall financial and patient management.