Even if you have a business manager or office manager to “handle the money” for your practice, you, the physician, have an important role in billing and collections.
From a risk management perspective, you should be familiar with state and federal laws on debt collection as well as TMA and American Medical Association ethical opinions. You also should make sure your billing and insurance staff are well-trained in appropriate collection practices.
Beyond that, however, your attitude about collecting fees sets the tone for your practice, says Barbara Pickelman in TMA’s publication Rx for Success: Communicating to Improve Collections — and adopting an attitude of problem-prevention sets up your staff for success.
Your collections mantra might be:
“We work with patients to resolve medical problems and related financial issues in a professional manner.”
“We can communicate clearly with patients to keep health-related financial problems manageable.”
Back up this nonadversarial position statement with a set of clearly written policies regarding billing and collections that gives you, your staff, and your patients a structure — a framework for openly discussing payments and working out payment options in a nondefensive, businesslike manner.
Be sure to support your staff as they follow the policies. For example, if you make frequent exceptions to policies, tell patients not to worry about their fees, tell staff not to hassle patients too much about money, or don’t allow staff to send collection letters, the message you’re sending to your patients is: “Don’t worry about paying the doctor; he or she is not going to hassle you about money.” That makes it harder for staff to collect fees.
But with a clear set of policies for back-up, your staff can say something like this to a patient who resists or can’t pay at the time of service:
“I can certainly understand the financial difficulty this treatment may place you in, Mr. Kelly. We’ve worked out a number of ways for patients to pay their bills. Let’s sit down, and I’ll give you all the help you need in figuring out a way to make this work.”
“When you treat financial issues as a responsibly managed part of your practice, you maintain the dignity and respect of staff and patients alike,” Ms. Pickelman says.
Rx for Success: Communicating to Improve Collections is available in the TMA Education Center. And check out more TMA e-tips on collections.
Need outside help with collections? Contact TMA Practice Consulting for a Revenue Cycle Assessment to learn how you can improve your collections process. Or, turn to IC System, a TMA endorsed vendor, to collect past-due patient fees. Visit www.texmed.org/GetPaid to see all the ways your TMA membership helps your bottom line.
Published April 13, 2017
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