Many practices struggle with collecting patient debts – is your practice one of them? It is important to recognize that your practice is not alone and there are solutions. While this is comforting, it does not diminish the need to collect and keep your practice in the green.
MedData reports, “30% of the average healthcare bill now comes from the patient’s pocket” and this is mostly due to the rise of patient deductibles and responsibilities. As these rise to anywhere from $2,000 to $10,000, many patients cannot address financial responsibilities of care without setting up some sort of assistance. While it impacts your financials, it is important to recognize it also impacts your patient’s experience and overall satisfaction with your organization (even it is something you can’t help). Before we begin to address ways to manage self-pay patients at your practice, let’s jump into defining what this means…
What does it mean to be a “self-paying” patient?
Self-pay refers to a patient that pays their bill directly rather than going through a private insurance company. Self-payment allows patients to only pay for the treatment they need. Self-pay also sets the precedent that patients need informed of financial responsibility prior to receiving treatments.
Managing Self-Pay Patients
There are a few common ways to manage self-paying patients at your practice. Some of those include the following…
Put it in Writing
This may sound like the simplest solution but it is often overlooked. If you have patients who self-pay at your practice, create a written self-pay payment policy and hold them to that. The intent of this policy is to help the patient understand that the patient is ultimately responsible to pay for the services rendered. According to the American Academy of Family Physicians, the following elements need to be included in the payment policy at your practice…
- Self-pay patients are responsible for the entirety of their bill amount.
- Patients that are enrolled in health plans are responsible for any amount that the health insurance does not cover, up to the entire amount of service.
- Unless prior arrangement are made and signed off on by both parties, services are to be paid the day of rendering.
- All payments need to be made in acceptable tender to the practice, whether that is check, cash, credit, or debit. If your practice accepts only specific credit or debit cards, those should be listed and accessible.
If you set expectations for your patients, less problems are likely to arise when it comes to finances. New patients should receive a copy of this policy and have it reviewed with them prior to their first visit. Your practice may even take this a step further and have new patients sign off that they have received this. This eliminates the possibility of them stating they were unaware of policies later, as you’ll have documentation.
Ensuring Payment from Uninsured Patients
The likelihood exists that patients without health insurance will be unable to pay their full financial responsibility. In order to collect, your practice may take take the following steps…
- Ask your patients to sign a promissory note, a “promise to pay,” or an acknowledgement of an IOU.
- Establish a plan with regular payments that sets clear due dates and amounts expected to be paid.
- Ensure that the patient that owes the charge understands their responsibility in this agreement, expects to be able to make agreed on payments, and understands the payment schedule.
If your organization is performing an expensive or more thorough treatment, some form of payment should be accepted upfront as a down payment. For more elective type procedures, encourage self-pay patients to take the time to establish funds before going through with the non-urgent treatments.
Just as your practice likely sends appointment reminders, begin to send payment reminders! This is a great way to remind your patients that their payment is due without the manual work. If a patient misses a scheduled payment, simply call and follow up with them. They may have forgotten or maybe they need to reschedule the payment – attempt to be flexible with them. If they are consistent with providing you payment, try to be consistent in your patience. If a new payment schedule needs worked out due to a change in their work or personal life, be flexible in order to ensure payment.
When it comes to collecting patient payments, transparency and patience with your patients is key. Work with them to find out what kind of payment schedule works best for them, and try to accommodate them if your practice wants to ensure payment without the extra hassle.
Are you looking for solutions to help you collect patients’ payments? MicroMD has several solutions related to your practice financials available on our Solutions Marketplace. Visit us at micromd.com or call us at 800.624.8832.
About the author,
Savanna is the Marketing Communication Specialist at Henry Schein MicroMD. She schedules emails to clients, prospects, and VARs, manages social media accounts, performs SEO research, writes blogs and eBooks, and much more while helping to support the simple yet powerful MicroMD solutions.
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