Four Bill-Collecting Tips for New (or Any) Practices

For any physician, starting a practice can be daunting. You have to hire staff, invest in equipment, attract patients, and figure out costs. All the while, you have to think about how you will cover expenses while still earning a profit.

One challenge often overlooked is making sure you get paid. Although only a small number of patients will not pay you, or will pay slowly, they can hurt your bottom line. Writing off thousands of dollars in charges should not be an option. 

To help make sure you’ll collect patient balances, outline a payment strategy and system that your staff, and most importantly, your patients, will understand. When an invoice becomes outstanding, train your staff to know when they should call, email, and eventually tell the patient he or she may face the prospect of dealing with a collection agency.

Below are four tips to help ensure you get paid:   

  1. Write down your policy. Ask for the copay at the time of the visit and remind patients that after the insurance settlement, they owe full payment within 30 days. Have a document outlining your policy that your patients can sign, acknowledging they understand how your practice will handle bills. The policy should explain when you will contact the patient should nonpayment occur as well as when you will turn over the account to a collection agency.   Have staff go over what insurance pays for before the visit. An office manager or front-desk employee should tell patients which procedures insurance covers and which the patient will pay for. 
  2. Get payment while patients are at the office. Many patients will not have insurance or will not have met their deductible limit. In those circumstances, they may ask you to bill them, leaving you without payment for weeks. Some practices offer patients a discount for full payment at check-out. A surprising number of patients will take advantage of the discount and save you the time and expense of mailing them bills. 
  3. Prior to treatment, give patients a cost estimate. More physicians are offering to tell patients what the charges will be. It’s only fair. When else does a consumer purchase something before learning the cost? No government policy forces physicians to give estimates; nevertheless, it’s a good practice. 
  4. Offer a payment plan. Not every patient has insurance or the financial wherewithal to pay on the day of the visit. Some may struggle to pay in full even 30 or 60 days later. For those patients, a payment plan they can afford should be an option. Slow payment is better than no payment.

TMA can help:

Published Aug. 27, 2015

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Last Updated On

February 01, 2022

Originally Published On

August 26, 2015