It’s morning at your healthcare clinic and the waiting room holds several patients ready for their appointments. Their first stop is the front desk, where a team member checks them in, asking for any information required by the patient’s insurance company that wasn’t provided during the pre registration process.
But what about the copay or deductible the patient is responsible for? In a perfect world, your front office staff has already verified beforehand whether and how much of the costs the patient’s health insurance will cover for the scheduled visit. www.clinic-ology.com/post/verifying-benefits-for-a-shorter-revenue-cycle-and-better-cash-flow
This is a critical step in collecting patient copays and deductibles at the time of the appointment, leading to a shorter revenue cycle and less strain on your billing team.
A 2017 survey by Black Book showed that among smaller healthcare practices, specifically those with five or fewer practitioners, 83% cite slow payments from patients with high deductible health plans as their top collection challenge.
Clinic-ology knows that point-of-service collections are vital for healthcare practices but also hears from front office team members that they often feel awkward making the request. This shouldn’t hold them back. After all, payment for goods and services at the time of purchase is the normal course of business in every industry. Everyone pays for their groceries at the checkout counter. So why should healthcare be any different?
Clinic-ology offers these 5 key tips on collecting patient copays and deductibles at the time of service.
1. Be clear and up front about patient responsibility.
The power of communication can’t be overstated here. A straightforward and upfront conversation about patient costs before the appointment means the patient walks in with their checkbook or credit card, ready to make a payment. Verbal communication carries considerably more weight than the “soft” approach of posting a sign at the front desk stating that payment is expected at the time of service. And remember, there is no need to apologize for asking for payment! Look at it this way: Do you wait for a bill to arrive from the dry cleaners after picking up your shirts? No. And neither does the dry cleaner apologize for asking you to pay before handing over your clean clothes.
2. Keep your front office team well trained.
Most patients aren’t well-versed in health insurance terminology. Deductibles, copays, co-insurance all equal different out-of-pocket payments. A front office team that can offer help to patients who aren’t clear about exactly how their insurance plan works makes for a smoother transaction at the time of collection — and shows patients that you care.
3. Create financial policies.
Drafting clear financial payment policies is a great way to set expectations with patients about their responsibility for payment. The financial policy can be included in the welcome packet prepared for new patients, and front office staff can have patients sign that they read and understand the policy at their first visit. The policy should clearly state exactly what patients are expected to bring to every visit, like identification and their insurance card, as well as their responsibility to contact their health plan about any coverage questions. And the policy should state in a noticeable spot that payment is due at the time of service unless other arrangements, like a payment plan, is already in place. The policy can also be posted or placed in the practice’s waiting room as a refresher for returning patients.
4. Keep patient credit cards on file.
Every practice should consider keeping credit card information in a safe, secure and PCI-DSS (payment card industry data security standard) (PCI-DSS) certified payment gateway. Your practice’s financial policy can outline that you reserve the right to process copays, deductibles, and claims denied by the patient’s insurer through the patient’s credit card. If this is put into practice, you must first ensure that adequate cybersecurity is in place to protect the patient’s financial information. Also, check that the policy aligns with state regulations and laws.
5. Make payments convenient. Having a range of upfront payment options that your practice accepts is easier on your patients and increases the chance of timely payment. Apart from credit cards, there are numerous digital payment options these days, such as Apple Pay, Google Pay, Venmo and many others. And, if your practice allows for monthly payments under an individualized plan, setting up automatic, recurring payments through a credit card or bank account can be part of that plan.
These are a few key tips for easier payment collection at the time of patient visits. However, there is more to consider, especially when it comes to patient deductibles. As deductibles start at the beginning of each year, including patients’ plan deductible amounts in patient records alerts front desk team members that in the first months of the year, the patient may be responsible for the entire payment for treatment.
Clinic-ology’s Training Academy is designed to help healthcare practices train team members in securing point-of-service collections and in consulting on financial policies, along with all the steps in the revenue cycle. We utilize the latest best practices to work with healthcare teams to ensure a shorter revenue cycle and high staff and patient satisfaction.
Ready to learn more about how Clinic-ology can help you optimize your practice operations?
Schedule your free consultation call with us today using our Quick Schedule Link here.