Working with Patients to reduce A/R

As a front-line provider of healthcare services, your organization has probably felt the strain of rising medical costs. A recent survey by the Henry J Kaiser Family Foundation found that “average family premiums have increased 55 percent, twice as fast as workers’ earnings (26%) and three times as fast as inflation (17%)” over the last decade. With statistics like this, it is no wonder that patients are finding it increasingly difficult to cover co-pay and deductible costs.

When patients are stretched financially, the bitter truth is that they need to choose which bills get paid and which don’t. Creating a constructive dialogue with patients makes it much more likely your office’s bills will make it to the top of the monthly list.

The inherent complications of medical reimbursement can make it challenging for offices to have constructive interactions with patients.

Some simple tips to help create positive financial relationships and work together to reduce A/R:

— Create a policy which informs patients of their financial obligations from the beginning

Information in this vital document may include language about:
  • Pre-authorizations – since the patient is ultimately responsible for payment, it is in his or her best interest to know that pre-authorizations are necessary and must be secured before the office visit or procedure.

  • Use of a collection agency for past-due accounts – patients appreciate knowing the consequences of unpaid bills. Plus, you are less likely to receive complaints if patients know from the outset a third-party may become involved in debt collection.

  • What to do if a denial results in the patient being responsible for payment – we recommend language explaining how insurance coverage is a contract between the insurance company and the patient. If a policy does not cover a service, or a service is deemed not medically necessary, there isn’t a way for a provider’s office to rectify the problem if coding is correct.

— Offer payment plans

Some offices do not offer payment plans because they can be difficult and costly to administrate. Unfortunately, without payment plans, a more significant percentage of outstanding balances will become bad debt. Some companies (like Rectangle Health) have made it easier to offer payment plans with technology that requires little to no effort after the provider’s office accepts the plan. If you haven’t done so recently, investigating options for payment plans is worth the effort and will help your bottom line.

— Make after-hours transactions easy with web payments and text-to-pay

Patients who work during daytime hours will likely be paying their bills in the evenings or on weekends. With the advent of so many electronic payment options, some patients may not even have checkbooks!

Offering online, over-the-phone and text payment options mean patients can pay when they want to – making payment more likely if they need to choose between your bill and another bill that does not have convenient options.

— Train billing and front desk representatives how to talk to patients about money

There are taboos in our society about finance discussions. Some employees may not be comfortable asking for or trying to negotiate payments. Teaching your employees strategies for collecting payments can make a significant difference to your cash flow.
We recommend training that furnishes useful phrases and responses to common payment objections and situations. We also suggest role-playing to help staff feel more comfortable talking to patients about money. This exercise is not only fun, but it is also informative because your team can use things said during real patient interactions. And, you may discover you have an Oscar contender among you!