Every year, patient deductibles and out-of-pocket expenses increase. This means that it’s even more imperative that patient balance collection is at the forefront of every therapist’s mind. This segment of your payments can constitute at least 20% of your contractually allowed charges, and could account for up to 100%, depending on your patient’s policy. Follow these simple revenue cycle management best practices in order to collect these payments without alienating your clients.
Utilize your Front Desk
By implementing a few simple revenue cycle management best practices at the front desk, you can patient payment challenges can be largely mitigated.
First visit communication
We always think of training our staff on the computer system or how to answer the phone, but the most important lesson for the front desk is how to have financial discussions with patients. This conversation starts on their first visit by informing them of their benefits, and what that means to their out-of-pocket expenses. Being up-front about approximately what that cost might be by the end of treatment is important and will establish trust with your clients. A pitfall is avoiding this out of fear they will be scared off! Your clinic will be more successful in the big picture if you set expectations at the beginning, rather than having patients quit after a couple appointments when they realize costs on their own, or get angry with your clinic.
Morning account check
The next step of the conversation begins by having your front desk check patient balances before the patients arrive each day. As patients arrive, communicate their balance and ask for a payment. This will keep the balance in both your staff’s mind and in the patient’s mind so that balances do not get out of control. Checking the accounts also provides insight into whether a patient’s insurance is processing correctly. If it isn’t, you can correct problems before the patient accrues a large balance.
The final part of this discussion comes near the end of treatment. Since deductibles are high, it may be necessary to establish a payment plan. Document the plan, update the patient demographics to include a social security number and the first payment collected. The hardest part of this conversation is making sure your patients understand that if they don’t follow the agreement, their account will be turned over to a collection agency. Ensure this payment agreement is understood, emphasizing the importance of communication if a payment can’t be made. This will help reduce the number of times accounts have to be referred to a collection agency.
Create detailed documentation at the point of care to help keep your notes accurate. Allow for review before choosing the correct CPT codes for your encounter. Your EMR system should be set up with billing edits and alarms that will guide your therapists to correct billing practices.
Keep billing consistent with services provided
Share productivity matrices that include time, visits, and units, along with reasonable goals. This will help to keep the billing consistent with the services provided.
Train therapists to discuss payment status
Educating your therapists about how to talk to patients about financial matters is also imperative. Open communication with patients about the financial commitment and status is crucial to patient outcomes. Patients question billing practices all the time. Make sure your therapists have a grasp of how they should explain their coding practices, and how it relates to the exercises assigned.
In the end, honest communication will keep your patient’s happy and their payments steady.
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