Beyond Billing: Making Collections as Painless as Possible
In an ideal world, bills would go out promptly and payments would return immediately. In reality, patient accounts sometimes go unpaid. But given that you often work and live in community with your patients, it’s important to maintain solid relationships with them.
Sometimes sending accounts to collections is the only means of obtaining payment for your services, and collections can strain even the best working relationships. By approaching the collections process in a way that affirms your respect for your patients and your desire to work with them, you can avoid a great deal of angst for all involved.
1. Follow up with traders insurance companies.
Good medical billing processes expedite and greatly increase accuracy, but sometimes insurance coverage details aren’t made clear to your office or the patient. Determining the underlying issue with nonpayment can make the process easier and help establish where the financial responsibility lies. And by communicating with insurance companies directly, you are indicating to your patients your intention to make sure they aren’t paying for something that’s already covered.
2. Use multiple communication channels to alert patients of your intent to collect before you send their accounts to collections.
Many patients feel blindsided by collections. While your practice may inform new patients that any bills that are overdue after a certain amount of time will be sent to collections, patients may forget this. The last thing you want is for your patients to feel as though you’ve thrown them to the wolves. If you let delinquent patients know that the collections process is about to begin, they will be better prepared for it . . . and they might even pay up just to avoid getting a call from the collector.
When alerting your patients, be intentional about making contact with them. Bills sent in the mail will usually arrive at their intended destinations, but patients may not open them. While the same thing is true for phone calls and emails, using multiple avenues of contact will increase the odds that one of your communiqués will be heeded. At the very least, those numerous points of contact will demonstrate your good faith attempts to communicate with your patients before turning their accounts over to collections. And they also show that you take your billing process seriously. Patients will be less likely to postpone making payment if they understand that you enforce your billing policies.
3. Use a mindful and gracious staff member to reach out.
We all have those wonderful people in our lives who make it easier to receive difficult news. If you have such a person on staff, use him or her to reach out to those patients who are behind in their payments. When making contact, this person should be calm and reassuring, yet firm and clear. The style of his or her approach—word choice, tone, and compassion—will dictate how the patient responds not only emotionally, but also financially.
When you and your staff interact with patients, keep in mind that even if they are aware that they’re behind in their payments, they may not understand why. People often receive broad overviews of their insurance plans from their employers and insurance provider, but it’s possible that they’re unaware of any loopholes and gaps in their coverage. Showing a little grace while you work this out with them will likely result in good patient reviews and numerous referrals—in addition to eventual payment.
4. Choose a collections agency you can trust.
Listen to your intuition when choosing a company. Do they make you feel comfortable? Do you believe they will treat your patients well? Do you want to be associated with them? In the minds of your patients, the representatives from the collections company will become very much associated with your practice. So select one that not only assures that you’ll receive a good deal or rate of delivery, but also provides the appropriate image for your practice.
Collections are a necessary part of the billing process, and it can improve the financial standing of your practice. As you enter the process, however, being upfront, proactive, and helpful will benefit your patients as well as your bottom line.