The technology factor: Tools to help you collect from patients

Dec 04, 2014, 5:00am

If you want to increase practice profitability and haven’t mastered patient collections, consider how you might employ technology to help you succeed in the new high deductible landscape.

Read Part 1: How high deductibles impact patients, practices

Read Part 2: Increase patient collections by developing a policy for success

As healthcare costs rapidly shift to patients in the form of high deductible plans, a larger portion of practice revenue is dependent on the collection of patient portion. Practices that are unable to successfully collect from or make payment agreements with patients at the time of service will see increased bad debt and be at significant financial risk moving into the future.

If you want to increase practice profitability and haven’t mastered patient collections, consider how you might employ technology to help you succeed in the new high deductible landscape. Doing so will both support and expedite the collection efforts of staff and the payment efforts of patients. It’s time that healthcare providers catch up with other industries in their consumer-focused strategies that get you paid sooner rather than later! After all, no one thinks twice about handing their major credit card over to pay their mechanic, paying in full at the grocery store or paying at the time of ordering purchases online – it’s expected that we will pay at time of service and it’s expected that these businesses will accommodate our preferred payment methods.

Additionally, patient collection efforts need to be consistent and humans simply aren’t as reliably consistent as automated systems. It’s important to consider taking advantage of anything your practice management vendor offers to support your efforts to relieve the administrative burden from your staff.

Here is a checklist to get you started:

  • Utilize your website or patient portal to give patients access to your patient financial policy, their balance and payment opportunities.

  • Use appointment reminder calls to also confirm insurance and co-pay information

  • Institute reminder calls, texts and emails to patients about balances due; some systems offer live operators to allow patients to pay over the phone after hours.

  • Utilize a payment estimator and/or real time claims adjudicator to help patients prepare to pay and give staff confidence in asking for payment at time of service.

  • Use insurance eligibility verification during scheduling, reminder or check in.

  • Accept all major credit cards - if integrated directly into your system, patients can be set up on a monthly payment plan. You could be sending them a receipt each month instead of a bill!

  • Set up secure “credit card on file” and add automatic payment to your patient financial policy for patients who want this convenience – also called “bill on EOB” with the security of a maximum cap on the amount for patient assurance.

  • Insure staff has the ability to scan insurance cards, process check payments, credit cards, and HAS or FSA cards.

  • Empower staff and educate patients with a system that allows any staff member to pull up a patients balance and print an EOB when asked for an explanation of their balance.

Keep in mind; technology will never replace the personal touch that a properly trained and naturally suited staff member can bring to this process. It’s also important that all members of your practice team understand the practice financial policy and their part in reinforcing it with patient-friendly language. However, utilizing technological tools to support your staff’s efforts to communicate to patients before, during and after visits will significantly increase your chances of getting full payment by your patients before they even leave your office.