Collections and securing payment for outstanding debts related to past services rendered can be a very challenging experience for any size practice. Yet it is a necessary component of any healthy revenue cycle that must be completed.
A lot of practice managers and revenue cycle specialists will tell you that accounts receivable is one of the crucial priorities for practice survival. Though in the current climate, a lot of practices find themselves struggling with unreliable cash flows due to patients who haven’t paid their outstanding out-of-pocket costs.
The often-arduous process of dealing with self-paying patients and insurance companies that are reluctant to pay a claim can be exhausting. A lot of smaller practices, with limited administrative staff for medical billing and collections, often feel like they are continuously fighting on multiple fronts to maintain a consistently healthy revenue stream. Even after services have been provided!
The American Medical Association estimates that in just the 21st Century alone hospitals in the United States have accumulated more than $702 billion in uncompensated care expenses. Unfortunately, this is a trend that is increasing, as patients are continuously overwhelmed by rising healthcare costs, overly expensive medical bills, and insurance policies with higher deductibles. All of which contribute to unmanageable out-of-pocket expenses.
It seems clear that to find a solution to patient debt from unpaid medical bills providers need to sharpen their focus on payment balances and ways to efficiently manage patient collections.
Post-Pandemic Changes to Medical Billing & Collections
Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic in early 2020 hospitals, clinics, and practices of every size have been seeing lower patient registration traffic which has further decreased practice profitability.
Though since the COVID-19 pandemic has started easing ambulator practices have started experiencing a rebound in the number of registered patients and patient volume. Though the numbers are still below pre-pandemic levels for a lot of practices throughout the United States.
Many of these practices find themselves still trying to cope with the aftermath of how COVID-19 affected their revenue stream and medical billing processes. This has made it even more important than ever for practices to maintain a healthy revenue stream to survive in the long run through rigorous collections processes
Best-Practice Ways to Improve Collections Reimbursements
There are a few things your practice can do to try to improve reimbursement rates for unpaid medical bills, as well as reduce the risk of future outstanding debts owed by patients or their insurance providers.
Tip #1 Collect Contact Information & Check Insurance Coverage During Scheduling
Any time a new, or even an established patient calls to set up an appointment you should collect their complete information, including updating their contact information and address. This includes updating their insurance information.
Then you can update that information, and coordinate with their insurance carrier to get any pre-authorizations approved. If you find that the patient has an applicable deductible, copay arrangement, or only partial coverage for the scheduled service, you can easily inform them so they are better prepared to meet their financial obligations.
Tip #2 Create a Patient Portal To Reduce Errors
If possible, try to provide technology-savvy patients an option to share their contact information and insurance details via email or through a secure web portal. This will go a long way toward reducing the chance of error.
Ideally, this patient portal feature needs to be able to collect and accommodate all of this important information. Especially the insurance policy number and details.
Tip #3 Always Verify Insurance Coverage In Advance
One of the best ways to reduce the risks of carrying collections debts and preventing claim rejections or claim denials is to always perform insurance verification during the scheduling phase of the process.
It should be a standard protocol for any administrative staff or clinician responsible for scheduling to verify the patient’s insurance at least one or two days before their scheduled appointment.
This allows adequate time for the insurance company to respond to eligibility and payment responsibility. It also gives you enough time to notify the patient so that they are clearly aware of their out-of-pocket obligations.
This protocol is especially helpful for patients who have differing copayment amounts for specific services.
Tip #4 Offer a Payment Arrangement System
Practices that offer friendly payment policies tend to spend far less time dealing with collections. Though there are several ways to do this.
For some larger practices, allowing patients to make time-based payments or offering discounts can help encourage the patient to pay a smaller amount on a timely basis. Rather than letting it go unpaid. Though this can be a risky proposition and you need to have enough overhead value in the business side to be able to shoulder the debt.
Partnering with an outside financial institution is often a more appealing option. They essentially extend a line of credit to the patient, and they handle any collections. All for a small percentage fee. This is often the preferred option for smaller practices and solo practitioners. Not only does it keep the patient connected to their practice, but it also spares them the rigors of having to deal with collections, which can strain the existing relationship with the patient.
Tip #5 Offer A Discount For Autopay
Any time you let patients request to pay via credit or debit card, offer them a small discount to sign up for autopay. Gives you the ability to charge them up to a specific dollar amount for unpaid post-insurance costs.
Then make sure to notify them through text or email two weeks in advance of the payment being due. Then also enable them to verify their statement electronically before processing the payment. This ensures that the patient is fully up-to-date and aware of when and why payment will be made and assists them with adopting processes.
It’s also a good practice to provide the patient with a printed and signed copy of the bill when they leave your office to ensure that the patient understands financial commitments.
Improve Your Revenue Stream By Outsourcing Your Medical Billing
One of the best ways for a lot of small to medium practices to improve their revenue stream and reduce the risk of unpaid patient bills going to collections is to outsource their medical billing to a third-party agency like Operant Billing Solutions.
Having medical billing industry experts combing over and vetting all your claims and pre approvals reduces the risk of claim rejections, denials, and delays. This helps patients understand and live up to their financial responsibilities without any surprise out-of-pocket costs.