The patient-physician relationship is built on the trust you work diligently to establish in the exam room. But patients can feel cheated or blindsided by a higher-than-expected bill. All it takes to destroy that patient’s trust is one unpleasant contact from your billing department.
Best practices in billing and collection can be thought of as part of the patient-physician relationship, too. Otherwise, you risk being one bill away from losing the patient. IC System, a collection agency and TMA endorsed vendor, suggests you adopt these three practices:
- Minimize surprises: There are reasons you tell your patients about a serious diagnosis in person rather than by mail in a form letter. It’s more compassionate, and patients have a chance to discuss their options. For those same reasons, medical care costs deserve the same consideration. Take a few minutes during the appointment for this conversation, when warranted, rather than mail an expensive surprise. Patients will be more likely to pay on time when they expect and understand their bills.
- Be upfront with your policy: Like many physician offices, yours may post a strict pay-in-full policy. But if a patient asks, you’re willing to have staff set up a payment plan. Don’t assume that any patient who needs more time to pay would come to you. Be upfront and straightforward with what you can do. Make it part of your written payment policy, and if costs are too high for the patient, assure him or her during the one-on-one conversation about treatment and costs that a payment plan is an option. “Considering the facts that out-of-pocket costs for medical care can be high and that most people struggle to cover an unexpected expense, a payment plan is the new necessity,” says IC System. Instruct your staff to always hold financial discussions with patients in private areas away from other patients and the front desk or check-out counter. Patients are often uncomfortable talking about finances, and some may be embarrassed they can’t pay
- Give notification: When patient accounts are turned over to a collection agency, it’s not unusual for patients to tell the agent they didn’t realize they owed money in the first place. One reason is widespread confusion over when they should pay and when they should wait for insurance to respond. Include information in your bills about insurance status, so when the billing statement is in the patient’s hands, there is no question about what’s owed and when it’s due. It’s also important to follow up with late-paying patients through phone calls and late notices.
Remember also that anything a collection agency says, does, or writes on your behalf is a direct reflection on you, so choose your agency with care.
You can view more collection tips for medical practices on the IC System blog, or call IC System for more information at (800) 279-3511. TMA also has lots of resources to help with collections:
TMA Practice E-Tips main page
Last Updated On
May 14, 2021
Originally Published On
November 07, 2017