medical paymentsHow to Get Patients to Pay Up

When outstanding patient balances grow out of control, you may feel there’s no option but to place them in the hands of a collection agency. Putting debt professionals in charge is the best way to get your payment… right?

Not always. Physicians and practice managers often resort too quickly to the services of a collection agency, and later feel the choice was a mistake. Learn why, and how, to avoid needing outside collection services – and bolster your cash flow in the process.

As you’re hopefully already aware, turn an account over to collections only as a last resort. Even then, don’t expect to recoup the entirety of money you’re owed.

The healthcare collection industry recovers about 22 percent of delinquent funds, according to the Association of Credit and Collection Professionals statistics. Typically, medical collection agencies take a 15% — 35% percent commission, medical billing expert and author Michelle Rimmer says – earning you ultimately as little as 14 percent of the balances you place under their service.

Avoiding collections requires that you get patients to pay their bills in full – up front when possible. This means your staff must assertively discussing balances with patients, a significant challenge in some offices.With patients paying a greater percentage of their healthcare costs, the collection of fees before or at the time of service becomes even more important. Your staff may need to educate and remind patients about their financial responsibilities. Many Americans gained insurance coverage because of the Affordable Care Act and chose high deductible plans; these patients could be confused about their share of medical care expenses.If a patient still dodges paying at your practice, establish your own internal collections policy, which should involve more than just sending the patient one or two statements per month.When a patient fails to pay a balance within a reasonable amount of time – say, three months – begin following up the mailing of a statement with a call. On such calls, be firm but generous: ask for payment and offer to set the patient up on a payment plan.

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