One of the fastest growing payers in the physician community right now is patients themselves. The rise of consumer-driven health plans, the Affordable Care Act, and the like have led to a move away from comprehensive, low or no-deductible health coverage to plans that offer more freedom and less monthly cost, but ultimately more financial burden on patients when it comes time to actually use them. This arrangement makes financial sense for many patients but can be difficult for their providers.
As many providers would probably tell you, collecting balances from patients sometimes can be more tedious than collecting from their health plans. This is due to a couple of factors: 1) medicals bills can create financial hardship for patient budgets, resulting in delayed payment or underpayment or no payment at all, and 2) practice methods for billing patients often rely on slow, manual processes. While practices have very little control over how their patients budget, they do have control over how they maximize efficiency in billing and collecting those patient balances, making it as easy as possible on both the staff and on the patients themselves to bring money in the door.
With that in mind, here are a couple of things your practice can do to improve your processes for collecting patient balances.
Partner with a statement vendor
The lion’s share of the time an effort in billing patients is printing and mailing patient statements. Luckily, solutions exist that can completely alleviate that burden on your staff. Instead of printing and mailing, your practice management system can upload a statement file to your statement vendor’s platform, who will then do the printing and mailing for you. Many of these vendors even allow in-depth statement customization, templating, and statement auditing tools so that you do not have to sacrifice the look and feel of the statements your patients receive. Even more, many also charge a per statement fee including postage rather than a more cumbersome monthly subscription. If your practice spends hours per week just printing and mailing, look into electronic statements.
From rent to credit card bills to utilities, many of your patients are managing the bulk of their payments through their email these days. Rather than relying solely on snail mail, increase the visibility and convenience of your statements to patients by going electronic and delivering statements straight to their email boxes. Patient statement vendors (like those above) and patient portal solutions offer tools that can allow you to do just that – send patients emails to inform them of balances due, and then provide secure environments to which those patients can log in and review their statements. By delivering electronic statements, you’re increasing visibility with your patients and decreasing the likelihood that your statements go unpaid because they’re either lost or misplaced.
The second piece of e-billing, providing a solution for accepting electronic payments, is all about convenience. In addition to seeing their bills online, many of your patients are paying their bills online. And, just like above, portal vendors and statement vendors can offer you tools that will allow patients to pay their balances with your practice securely and online. They won’t have to mail a check and they won’t have to call your phone. This frees up staff time, increases payment velocity (since you won’t be waiting on the postal service to deliver you their checks), and adds a generous helping of convenience to busy patients who plan on paying their bill “when they get around to it”.
Collecting from patients can be difficult, but there are tools you can plug into your practice management system to maximize efficiency in patient billing for your staff and convenience for your patients. By partnering with a statement or patient portal vendor that can offer print and mail services, e-statements, and e-payments, you can reduce the administrative burden on your staff when it comes to patient billing to almost zero, improve your patient experience, and maximize the likelihood that a patient that wants to pay their bill can do so.