Collections: Don't let patients skate

Monday, November 21, 2011

A. I think every provider in today's industry recognizes the need to collect co-pays they may have been writing off 10 years ago, but how do you do it? It starts with setting forth best practices for the billing department, and providing adequate training for your staff to ensure private-pay balances are not only being collected, but also in a timely manner.  

Here are a few quick tips:

Collect co-pays upfront. It's unheard of to ask your patient for their portion due at the time of service, right? Why is that? Once your staff starts collecting the patient portion upfront, you will very quickly notice a change in the way your patient views your business going forward. Your bills have now been set as a priority and one that needs to be paid.  Once the patient is "trained" appropriately to your billing requirements, your collections rate will improve.  

Don't bill your patients. That's right--avoid billing them altogether by getting a credit card upfront. Your patients may not feel comfortable doing this right away, but as you make it part of your practice and patients trust your billing, they will appreciate the convenience. Accepting payments online via credit cards, eChecks and HSA cards, will also encourage the ease of the patients making their payments.

Don't let the accounts age. If the patients don't feel any pressure for a couple of months, they think they have "skated by" and it then becomes impossible to collect, therefore ending in unnecessary write offs. Enforce a consistent follow-up process, identify non-payers quickly and take appropriate action.

It all comes down to this: Did you provide your patient with a service? If the answer is yes, you have every right to collect for services rendered. Providers have got to start collecting their piece of the pie and it starts with training your staff, educating your patients, and carrying through with what you've established as a best practice.

Kevin Winkley is president of Strategic AR. Reach him at or 913-744-3360.