The Four Points of Upfront Collections

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Requesting money from a sick patient for some people seems insensitive, however, it must be understood that health care costs money. Although it may be a touchy topic, collecting upfront payment from your patients is a necessary aspect that needs to be addressed.

Different medical facilities choose to handle this sensitive subject in different ways. However you choose to handle patient collections, it is important to understand that collecting patient payments is just as important as collecting insurance payments. 

For your medical facility to continue its ability to offer quality health care, there must be a process in place to collect deductibles, co-payments, and co-insurance. One part of that process should include collecting payment prior to services being rendered. Patient responsibility makes up a substantial percentage of the revenue collected by the medical office and should not be taken for granted.

Develop an Upfront Collections Policy

Accuracy and consistency along with a system for determining and collecting patient responsibility are key for your upfront collection policy. An upfront collection plan ensures that there is a process for all staff to follow for each patient.

The fastest way to increase cash flow and improve collection rates is to collect patient responsibility up front. Patients are less inclined to pay or are difficult to reach once the services have been performed. Rather than waiting until the collections stage of the revenue cycle, providers should take advantage of discussing financial issues and collecting patient payments early in the process. 

Teach Proper Collection Techniques

The second step is to train your medical office staff on the proper techniques for collecting payment from your patients. Make sure they understand the importance of collecting revenue. Health care costs are expensive and ever rising. In order to stay open for business, collective efforts must be made to collect revenue from the insurance companies and patients. Requiring payment to be paid at the time services are rendered lowers bad debt and keeps cost down for everyone especially the patients.

Educate Patients on Their Financial Responsibility

The third step is to educate patients on their financial responsibility. Patients are your customers and should be treated as such. No one can go to the grocery store, put food in their cart and tell the grocery store to bill them later. This same notion should be adopted in your office. Except in emergency situations, patients should come to expect that they will be asked and expected to pay their portion of the bill at the time services are rendered. Notify patients prior to their arrival of what their estimated responsibility will be and make them aware that payment is required prior to services being performed.

Offer Financial Assistance

Lastly, your medical office should have a charity program or financial assistance program in place for your uninsured or underinsured patients. This will allow your facility to offer health care to patients that cannot afford to pay the total expense out of pocket. You can assist patients in finding community or government resources to help pay their bills or offer no interest payment plans. Be sure to request a deposit or good faith payment. 

In addition, financial counseling can help determine a patient's eligibility for public assistance, charity care or payment plans, which can also be difficult to do once the patient has already received treatment. This process will assist with minimizing the billing staff workload as well as improving collection efforts.

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