Although it's considered best practice to collect co-payments at the time of service, things don't always happen that way. Sometimes your office is understaffed, or the patient doesn't have the co-payment required, or another issue may arise that prevents collections from happening on the date of service. If this becomes a habit, however, then you are setting yourself and your practice up for long term collection and medical billing issues.
Here are 5 ways you can increase your practice's front desk collections and avoid having to bill for past due amounts from your patients, or issue refunds for over-payments.
1) Collect Payments Upfront
To avoid bigger collections and revenue cycle management issues than your practice wants or is able to handle, you need to ensure that the majority of insurance co-payments are being collected at the front desk, on the day that services are provided.
Collect a patient’s co-pay, deductibles, past due balances in the office, at the time of the appointment. Do not give patients the option to pay at the time of service, ask them how they would like to pay.
Proper training of office staff is critical to accomplishing this goal. Prepare them with sample scripts on how to ask for payments and the obstacles the patient will present so your staff is prepared to have the conversation.
Whether it is on the phone while collecting patient information or at the time of service, asking for the payment and making the patient aware of their financial responsibility is critical. Post your policy on your website or around the office so the expectation is set.
2) Implement a Credit Card on File Program
In some cases, however, it may make more sense to bill patients at the end of their visit, since the reason for their visit and/or services rendered may differ from what was originally scheduled. Having a credit card on file program in place can be a huge benefit to collecting from patients in this type of situation.
A credit card on file program (CCOF) is a growing trend in busy offices looking to increase their billing collections. Request the patient’s credit card information and set up a payment plan.
Explain that you will deduct a set amount from their credit card on a given date each month until their balance is paid in full. Some patients might be leery of doing this, but explain your process to them. Offering a credit card option is going to increase your patient collections and lower the billing costs for your practice
Whatever you find to work best for your practice is fine, just as long as you get your front desk staff to consistently follow your office policies.
3) Keep Collection Procedures Well-documented
Be sure to outline co-payment collection procedures clearly in all new-hire training materials, and to keep a checklist posted in your practice as a reminder.
If your front desk collections policies aren't made clear and strictly enforced, staff members may be more likely to forget to (or neglect to) collect co-payments promptly.
4) Keep Updated Insurance Records
If your patient database doesn't have the most up-to-date insurance records available, it becomes more difficult to keep track of which patients are responsible for co-payments, and how much is due at the time of their visit.
By putting procedures into place that require you and your staff to update patient records consistently and accurately, you can more effectively manage co-payment collections on a daily basis.
It's important to get your front desk staff into the habit of asking whether the insurance information on file is still valid, in addition to requiring new insurance forms to be filled out on a yearly basis.
5) Verify Insurance Before Visits
Another way to help manage the co-payment collection process for your front desk staff is to require insurance verification to be done before a patient visits your practice. Have your staff verify insurance approximately 1-2 days before a patient's visit is scheduled, to allow plenty of time for the insurance company to respond with regards to eligibility and payment responsibility.
Make sure your front desk staff is following protocol by verifying insurance for patients before they arrive as often as possible.
Since different procedures sometimes require different co-payment amounts, it's important for your staff to take verification a step further, and review the scheduled service and the patient's insurance to determine what they are responsible for at the time of their visit.
5) Understand and Document Patient Needs
When a patient makes an appointment to see a physician at your practice, it's important to find out why, and to document the reasoning in a detailed manner.
The more information that is available to front desk staff members when a patient arrives, the more likely they are to bill the correct co-payment amount on a regular basis. However, if your front desk administration is left in the dark about the reasons for patient visits, they will have a harder time accurately collecting co-payments, which may result in more refunds and more time spent trying to follow up with patient to collect payments.
Increase Efficiency of Practice Operations
By keeping up-to-date patient records, implementing a credit card on file program, clear co-payment collection procedures, and enforcing upfront payment collection and insurance verification policies, you can successfully increase front desk collections at your practice and improve the efficiency of your revenue cycle management.
And by helping your front desk staff to collect more accurate co-payments, you can increase the overall efficiency of practice operations which benefits you, your medical practice, your patients, and your bottom line.