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Lesser-Known (Legal!) Strategies to Boost Patient Collections

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Lesser-Known (Legal!) Strategies to Boost Patient Collections

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Patient collections

As payors deny more and more claims, and patients become increasingly more difficult to chase down following services rendered, your ability to collect what you’re owed diminishes. Rather than going with the old models of revenue management, you need to think outside the box to keep your practice’s books in the black.

These 3 lesser-known – but perfectly legal – strategies can help you boost your patient collections without a ton of extra effort or cost for your practice:

Keep Payment Methods on File

Having a patient’s credit card, debit card, or ACH withdrawal authorization on file electronically allows you to automatically process charges for co-pays and services without having to get the information from the patient each time. Not only can this increase your patient collections percentages, but it can also save you the money, headaches, and time.

Before you implement a policy of keeping patient payment information on file, there are several specific details you must implement:

  • Payment Preauthorization: Your practice most likely has an Assignment of Benefits document that you require your patients to sign that authorizes insurance companies to pay you directly for the care you provide. Before you can keep a patient’s payment information on file, you must get their authorization to do so.  A great place to do this is by adding this verbiage to your Assignment of Benefits form. Here are some items you should include when drafting a patient payment authorization:
    • Patient Name
    • Payment Type (Visa, AmEx, ACH withdrawal, etc.)
    • Name on the Card
    • Card Expiration Data
    • Security Number form Card
    • Related Billing Address
    • Language that spells out what the charge will be used for so the patient can authorize its use.
    • Date
    • Patient’s Authorization Signature

Note: You obviously will also need the patient’s credit card or bank number to process the payment, but you should NOT Include it on your Assignment of Benefits form.

  • Set Payment Limit: In addition to the above items, consider including a cap to the amount you can charge to the patient. While this isn’t a legal requirement, it’s good customer service. It avoids the patient being hit with a large, unexpected charge, which they could potentially dispute. If that happens you could be left with no payment at all.
  • State Law Consideration: Some states may have different requirements that you must comply with regarding your Assignment of Benefits. To be sure that your document is compliant, consider having an attorney review your payment authorization form before you put it into practice. This is prudent to protect yourself from making an innocent mistake.
  • Credit Card Copies: Don’t make the mistake of keeping a paper copy of the patient’s credit card on file. Also, if you write down the credit card information to process a payment, you are required by the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standards (PCI DSS) to shred the information to ensure your patient’s security. You are allowed, however, to keep patient credit card, debit card, and ACH information on file in your third-party payment processing portal (i.e., Instamed).  This is allowed because these services keep patient payment details encrypted, so that it can remain secure.

Collect Patient Plan Documents

Requiring each patient to present a copy of their health insurance summary plan descriptions helps your practice keep track of what services are and aren’t covered, at what rates they’re covered, what a patient’s out of network benefits are, and even what procedures require preauthorization. While it may not seem like a likely patient collections tactic, it can make a significant difference.

Having this information on hand allows you to better explain to patients what they may owe for the services they receive. This allows the patient to be better prepared when an invoice actually does arrive. Helping a patient understand how much of the bill they will be responsible for helps them prepare for the payment and makes them more likely to pay you when they receive an invoice.

Additionally, knowing upfront what procedures require preauthorization gives your team a head start on this often-lengthy process so your preauthorizations run more smoothly, and you avoid providing services for free.

Appointment Deposit Fees

Charging a blanket Appointment Deposit or Reservation Fee, can be more successful than trying to collect money after a patient has missed an appointment (a no-show).

Before you implement such a policy, there are several important details you must consider

  1. Notification: You must notify your patients of your plan to implement a blanket Appointment Reservation Fee before you charge them. You can add this notification to your payment policy document. Then, the next time the patient comes in, have them resign the document that includes this new policy. You should keep a copy of this new signed payment policy for your records.
  2. No-Show Fee: Consider removing your No-Show fee policy. Otherwise, you could end up charging a patient twice for the same missed appointment.
  3. Keep or Credit: Charging the patient up front may help collections of no-show fees, but it can also complicate things if your patient shows up and they don’t owe as much as you collected. You can choose to handle this in a variety of ways:
    a. Refund the entire amount of the registration fee and then charge the patient whatever they owe at the time of the appointment (if anything).
    b. Credit the patient the difference between what they paid in the reservation fee and what they owe for the visit.
    c. Or you can always ask the patient if they’d like to apply the additional amount to other products or services they receive.

For more information on why you should charge no-show fees, and how to handle communicating these fees to your patients, check out this blog post.

Patient collections is one of the most difficult parts of the job for anyone working in a medical practice. But you can increase your revenue without angering your patients by utilizing tried-and-true collections tactics courtesy of consultant and front desk collections expert, Tracy Bird, FACMPE, CPC, CPMA, CEMC, CPC-I. In her 60-minute online training, Boost Your Front Desk Patient Collections Quickly and Easily, you’ll receive step-by-step guidance to help you keep cash flowing. Check out this immediately available online training today!

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