We are all familiar with the patient when checking in at the front desk who states “I didn’t know I had to pay today
because….” Your front desk personnel need to be able to handle this scenario, with the least amount of disruption
for the staff and patients and with the patient making payment that day.
Here are some useful tips to accomplish this goal.
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Collect Payments Upfront
- When the patient makes the appointment, document the reason for the appointment including any diagnostic testing that may be required. The more information available to front desk staff members, the more likely they are to collect the correct payment amount on a regular basis.
- While on the phone collecting patient information make the patient aware of your financial policy.
- Post your policy on your website and have the billing and collections policy visibly posted at the front desk.
- Strictly enforce these procedures for all patients to ensure that the majority of a patient’s required co- pays, deductibles, co-insurance and past due balances are collected at check in on the day of the appointment.
- Have multiple options for patients to make payments including through a mobile device, on your website, through your patient portal and offer low or no interest payment programs.
- Have a credit card on file program in place. This can be a huge benefit to collecting from patients who have an unexpected bill due to the visit and/or services being rendered differing from what was originally scheduled
- Prepare the front desk staff with sample scripts on how to ask for payments and the obstacles the patient will present so your staff is prepared to have the conversation.
- Have a billing person available to explain financial information to patients. This is important for patients who are having unscheduled diagnostic testing, or procedures done on the same day as the office visit.
Insurance Eligibility Verification
- Keep updated insurance records. If you don’t have the most up-to-date insurance records, it becomes difficult to keep track of patient responsibility for co-payments, deductibles, and co-insurance amounts.
- Run detailed eligibility verification 1-3 days prior to patient’s visits in order to obtain co-payment, co-insurance and real-time deductible balances.
- Since different procedures sometimes require different co-payment amounts, it’s important for your staff to take verification a step further, and review the scheduled service and the patient’s insurance to determine what they are responsible for at the time of their visit.
- Your staff should also understand benefit details tied to the services you offer and confirm if you are considered in-network for the patient.
- Your practice management software application may have the capability to run real time eligibility, while most commercial insurances have an on line eligibility portal staff can access. Use this technology to your advantage!
- With benefits and deductible information in hand before a patient walks in the door, your staff is already in a better position for the conversation.
Training For All Staff Members
- Proper training of your entire staff is critical to accomplishing this goal, not just front desk personnel. Clinic staff members need to be prepared to have these conversations as well.
- Be sure to outline collection procedures clearly in all new-hire training materials.
- Set up a Lunch and Learn for the billing department to do an in-service training so that physicians and clinical staff have a better idea of billing and insurance issues they may encounter:
- Provide scenarios and scripts then role play during the training.
- Provide staff with the multiple options you offer for patients to make payments and any payment programs you have in place.
- Provide information on the financial hardship policy.
- Make sure they know who to contact in the billing department and the preferred method to contact that person.
- Educate staff on how to assist patients with making payments through mobile devices.
- Educate staff on how to walk patients through the process of paying through your website or patient portal.
- Educate staff on the details of your Credit Card on File Program.
- Educate staff on the monthly internal billing plans or the low to no interest credit card payment programs you participate in ie; Care Credit, AccessOne MedCard, Wells Fargo Health Advantage
- Have a detailed policy for financial hardship, and post it where it is easily accessible for front desk personnel.
By keeping up-to-date patient records, having clear payment collection procedures, implementing a credit card on file program, enforcing upfront payment collection and insurance verification policies, you can successfully increase front desk collections at your practice and improve the efficiency of your revenue cycle management.