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How To Establish Strong Patient Collections Protocols

Healthcare costs are rising, and as they do, patients bear more financial responsibility for their care. Patients under every insurance plan feel the burden of deductibles and higher costs. As these costs rise, medical practices struggle to get reimbursement for services provided.

Medical offices and facilities must establish strong patient billing collection protocols to ensure they receive appropriate compensation. The success of your practice depends on it.

In this article from Larsen Billing, we explore the impact of your collection protocols and how to establish processes that help you collect as promptly and completely as possible.

Train Staff to Ask for Payment

Office managers must train reception staff to ask for balances and co-pays when the patient is in your office. At Larsen Billing, we successfully pursue patient balances for our providers, but no one captures funds more effectively than your office staff engaging face-to-face with your patients. Below are a few practical ways you can train and facilitate your staff to collect payment:

  • Provide scripts to your staff to build confidence and guide the conversation. This is helpful for in-person interaction and your courtesy collection calls.
  • Role-play scenarios to ensure staff members are comfortable finding patient data and payment information in your system.
  • Consider staff incentives for payment collection. What will drive your staff to excel in this area? Motivate your team with their desired rewards and watch your collection volumes increase.
  • If a patient declines to pay their balance, ask for the soonest date they can. When calling, don’t give patients the option to pay. Instead, inform them of their balance and ask when and how they will pay it.

Asking patients for payment can feel awkward or intimidating for your staff. But with the proper training and tools, they can confidently and tactfully engage patients so your practice can be fairly and appropriately compensated.

Set Up Pre-Payment Plans

Consider setting up pre-payment plans for services that will result in higher bills or patient costs. Collecting on large balances after services have been rendered is difficult, if not impossible. Research finds that practices only collect 12% of outstanding balances at the time of service and collect nothing 67% of the time.

Setting up pre-payment plans establishes the expectation for payment with a monthly schedule and payment amount. When discussing installment payment options with your patients, present the lowest possible monthly amount. Doing so shows patients the affordability of a payment plan and increases the likelihood of patients making on-time, in-full payments.

If your system is PCI compliant, you can offer to keep credit cards on file for patients and ask them to sign a consent form to charge that card for balances up to a certain amount to prevent balances from accruing.

Larsen Billing has a pre-collection process that follows through with non-paying patients for almost two months after three statements are sent. More aggressive letters are then sent in closer succession, asking for payment and informing patients of the date the balance will be sent to collection.

Pursue Timely Collection

Your staff should make every effort to collect balances within 90 days of the balance becoming the patient’s responsibility. The longer a balance goes unpaid, the less likely you will be able to collect it.

At Larsen Billing, we make every effort to contact your patients to collect your payments. We begin contact attempts one week after sending the second statement, including emails, texts, and follow-up calls.

If a patient hasn’t paid anything on their balance upfront, the chances of them paying at all diminish. It’s often more cost-effective to release the balance instead of continuing pursuit after the 90-day threshold.

Know Your Demographic

Patient billing is not a one-size-fits-all protocol. Various demographics respond differently to specific collection strategies, which can include:

  • Phone calls, texts, or emails to the patient
  • Payment plans
  • Multiple ways to pay, including via phone, email statements, paper statements, and online portals

Consider that we live in a technological world. The growing younger demographic is tethered to their devices and typically handles all their financial obligations electronically. If you serve a younger population, access to payments and medical information electronically for your patient will increase your likelihood of being paid.

Conversely, an older demographic likely won’t respond to emails or engage with online portal payments. However, they’ll answer their phones to pay or send payment via mail. Understanding your patient demographic helps you implement effective payment collection strategies.

Implement a Plan to Release Outstanding Balances

Your billing protocols should include a policy for writing off outstanding balances after making an effort to collect. Some companies have no one collecting and won’t let go of balances. Know when it’s time to cut it loose.

As you create a plan to release balances, consider the following:

  • What billing cycle will you follow? Will you pursue collection for 90 days? The more time that passes on delinquent payment, the greater your practice’s cost and the lower your return.
  • Will you send outstanding balances to collections? While some practices don’t want to send patient bills to collections, it’s the best way to protect yourself from medical costs. By sending it to collections, you’ve made every effort to collect that balance.

However, once you send the bill to collections, you lose a percentage of that payment. Do whatever you can to receive patient payment before you send their bill to collections.

  • What is the minimum balance you’ll bill for? It’s costly and ineffective to continue sending statements on a minuscule balance that isn’t being paid. Establish the minimum you’re willing to maintain unpaid balances for. If they go unpaid, write them off.

In Larsen Billing’s system, we write off unpaid balances but set an alert, so if the patient comes in, we resurrect the balance. This ensures older outstanding balances don’t clutter your accounts receivable (AR) and waste resources.

  • Know when to exit a patient from your practice. If a patient has a growing balance with a history of little or no payments, consider exiting them from your practice. You should not repeatedly see patients if they don’t pay for services.
  • Review balances monthly to make decisions. Regularly review your A/R so you can make informed decisions regarding your billing. Do you want to extend the grace period for certain patients? What is your plan for handling balances that age out?

Choose the Right Practice Management Software

The practice management software you choose will drastically affect your patient billing process. You need a functional software system that makes locating and gathering patient balances and data simple. Look for systems that generate detailed statements so patients know what the insurance covers, what balance they’re responsible for, and how that balance came about.

Software alone isn’t enough to create and execute your patient collections process. You need real people with expertise to ensure you receive the most compensation possible. Larsen Billing’s talented team pores over every claim and submission to help you get the payment you deserve for the services provided.

Position Your Practice for Success with Larsen Billing

Your billing collection dramatically impacts your revenue and your practice’s success and longevity. Partnering with a robust medical billing service is essential for effective payment collection.

Larsen Billing has spent decades serving practices like yours, obsessing over every detail to ensure you’re fairly compensated for the vital services you provide. We’ve built strong patient billing and collections protocols into our system, working closely with offices to track and provide monthly reports so you can accurately picture your office’s performance.

Our team personally handles your entire A/R cycle, from submitting insurance claims to sending delinquent payments to collections. We can make recommendations, track patient collections, and partner with you in collecting those dollars for your practice. Our billing experts make friendly phone calls and establish points of contact, verify insurance plans, and help set up prepayment plans.

Whatever your billing needs are, we work with you every step of the way to champion your success. Contact Larsen Billing today to learn how we put our decades of medical billing and collections experience to work for you.