5 Tips to Prevent Unpaid Medical Collections – Supercharge Your Staff

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5 Tips to Prevent Unpaid Medical Collections – Supercharge Your Staff

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medical collections front desk helping patient

For years, deductibles were so low. Payers paid most of the patient responsibility on claim submission. Those days are obviously gone putting the onus on your practice’s medical collections to keep your revenue stream healthy.

“Most patients maybe had a $250 or $500 deductible,” recalls medical collections expert Tracy Bird, FACMPE, CPC, CPMA, CEMC, CPC-I, in her program “Front Desk: Boost Your Collections Fast.”  “In fact, providers relied on reimbursement from those third-party payers for the majority of that revenue stream, but there was very little emphasis at that point.”

Reimbursements have shifted though making your front desk the first defense in getting money in early to avoid unpaid medical collections. Check out these stats from Bird. Today, US healthcare spending has reached more than $10,000 per person. In 2007, patient responsibility was 12% of the total revenue to a practice, but today, patient responsibility is as much as 45% of a practice’s revenue.

The average deductible can range anywhere from $3,000 up to $10,000 or more. Self-pay has actually become the third payer behind Medicare and Medicaid. 80% of true self-pay responsibility is never recovered by medical collections and 50% of overall patient responsibility goes uncollected.

To get the money at the best time possible – before the patient leaves your office and your billing or collections teams face the challenge of recovering medical collections, you need a superhero front desk staff. Here are some tips from Bird to supercharge your medical collections team and technology.

1. Hire Jugglers to Decrease Unpaid Medical Collections

Get the right person for the job and your work of getting a supercharged medical collections team will be so much easier. Front desk staff should be professional and have a service orientation, Bird points out. “Their general competencies are that they are multitaskers, can do several things at one time, and do them by rote, if you will, while they’re engaging the patients in conversation.”

2. Use Your Portal to Aid Your Medical Collections Efforts

Getting balances paid online has a high success rate. You should track that your patients are actually accessing information through your portal, Bird recommends. “That’s a great way to communicate, and certainly that’s the way we want patients to be able to pay their bill online.”

3. Help Medical Collections Staff Resist the Temptation to Give Discounts

You should not offer discounts to patients who have high deductible health plans. “They’re already getting a discount.,” explains Bird. “When you submit the charge, they’re computing that encounter based on your contractual rate.”

4. Prevent Medical Collections by Entering 100% Accurate Info

Your staff must be able to read insurance cards. “We expect our frontline employees to be capturing the correct, absolutely correct insurance and billing information for claims and collections,” Bird explains.

5. Train Staff to Estimate Amounts, Dress to Collect Money Upfront

Your patients want to know how much a typical visit will cost them. Your staff’s ability to give a reliable estimate goes a long way to help you decrease accounts aging due to unpaid medical collections.

Front desk staff must be able to communicate what the patient owes at the time of service and do what they can to collect the fees upfront. You might have additional questions like how should your front desk staff answer “Do you know how much this will be today?” or how staff can estimate costs in general.

There might even be a way that their dress can optimize collections. You may wonder how you can get the team to work together as part of the whole revenue cycle flow.

“Today’s front office employee is not the same employee as we had yesterday.” Bird notes. “These young men and women we have, not always young, can be old too, it doesn’t matter.

Just the individuals we have working at the front desk today are just tasked with some difficult and lots of multi-faceted responsibilities.” To learn more about how to supercharge your front desk staff and technology to improve your collections rates, Tracy Bird has created an online webinar training “Front Desk: Boost Your Collections Fast” that will help you more.

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Meet Your Writer

Tracy Bird

President, Medical Practice Advisors

Tracy has over 40 years of experience in various specialties in the areas of practice management, billing and coding, including training, communications, and policy and procedure development. She is an ACMPE Fellow with MGMA, a Certified Professional Coder (CPC), a Certified Professional Medical Auditor (CMPA), a Certified Evaluation and Management Auditor (CEMC) a Certified Professional Medical Coding Curriculum instructor (CPC-I), and an AAPC Fellow. Tracy is co-founder and past president of the NE Kansas Chapter of AAPC, a past president of MGMA-GKC and is currently serving as the Chair of the Certification Commission for National MGMA.