That certainly seems to be one conclusion to draw from the graph. When contrasted with Send Now behaviour from two years previous, 2015 data indicates that practice send 5% more claims while the patient is still at the practice, which is an 18% increase on two years ago*.
Interestingly, both 2015 and 2013 have an increase in Send Now behaviour towards the end of the year – no doubt because that’s when patients’ medical savings accounts tend to run out, and it makes sense for practices to check that they have enough money to settle their consultation.
What does this mean for South African Healthcare practitioners?
With our stressed economy, the number of cash-strapped consumers will almost certainly put medical practitioners at even greater risk of bad debt and late payments. Best practice dictates that patients should be informed of outstanding amounts before they leave the practice, and co-payments due by patients should be settled as soon as possible – preferably before the patient leaves, but absolutely within 7 days of the consultation.
Where smart technology and changes in practice behaviour meet
No one will argue that technology is crucial to enable practices to invoice as soon as possible however, great software in itself is not where the magic happens. Every practice administrator has a unique environment and processes already in place. Software providers should be able to provide a change management program suited to your practice to ensure success of the technology through best practice. In this case, best practice should equate to greater financial benefit for your practice through better collection processes.
With the rising threat of bad debt, the stats from the graph strongly suggest that practices are seeing the need to implement better collection processes to protect cash flow and reduce bad debt. To successfully implement best practice to assist with collection efforts, one will require investment in both staff and technology. This will ensure that as a practitioner, you are not burdened by admin and as a patient you are well informed of your outstanding co-payment amounts.
* Practices sent on average 25% of claims while the patients were still at the practice in 2013, and 30% in 2015. This is a 5 percentage point increase, and 18% increase on their 2013 behaviour.