Collections: Consider impacts of self-service

Q. What changes can I make to improve my billing staff efficiency?
Friday, May 23, 2014

A. A billing manager recently shared with me: “I don’t really have a collection problem, I have a payment processing problem.” Wow. That’s a nice problem to have, isn’t it? She’s hitting her collection goals, but the cost of collecting is too high. Most providers that I speak with have both problems—they’re not collecting enough and the cost of doing so is ever increasing.

Often the prescription for this ailment is online bill pay or a pay-by-phone solution, etc., as these patient self-service tools are believed to reduce staff time and, by extension, reduce cost. And they can. But you need to also consider the downstream impacts on your team like having additional payment and bank reconciling challenges, managing multiple vendor relationships and handling customer service issues that may come from the new tools. Who on your team will answer patient questions about site access, password resets, account balance accuracy, browser issues and the like? You may find that the staff time saved from such tools is quickly offset.

And remember, 70% or more of your payments, despite your best efforts, will continue to come in offline. You may have put your checkbook down a long time ago (I sure did). But your patients haven’t. How many staff do you have processing mail? Activities like indexing and posting checks, investigating issues when a 

payment stub is missing, resolving random patient correspondence and sorting through returned mail are likely major contributors to your inefficiencies. All of this can be automated and you can redeploy your team members to more valuable activities like speaking with your patients, empathizing and getting you paid.

Kurt Lovell is COO of Patientco. Reach him at