Patient Collection Strategies During COVID-19
The impact Covid-19 has had on medical practice’s revenues has been nothing short of a financial hurricane. We recommend the following patient collection strategies to help ensure that your practice successfully weathers these difficult times.
1. Clearly Communicate the Patient Portion Prior to the Appointment Date.
Your office administrative staff must be vigilant and check the patient’s copay or deductible amount before the date of the appointment.
It is extremely important that you communicate the value to the patient at least two days prior to the appointment date. You can ensure the information reaches the client by utilizing any number of communication platforms such as a phone call, texting, email, or a patient portal inbox message (if one is available). For patients who aren’t tech-savvy, you may want to include a call back to ensure that the client comes prepared to pay the copay value.
An important benefit of this pre-appointment communication is that it cuts the element of unwanted surprise for the patient. Lack of communication leads to a lack of preparedness to pay the copay value. It is also something that a patient may interpret as ‘hidden charges’ and impact the overall experience of dealing with your medical practice.
NOTE - With CMS changing billing guidelines to address the pandemic, it’s important to ensure that your office staff understands the latest regulations.
2. Use Online Patient Portal to Collect Patient Forms.
A patient portal should be made available and all patient forms must be accessible on the portal. Your patients can prefill the documents before arriving at the office and sign them digitally using DocuSign or Adobe Sign, and email them to your practice.
Accepting patient documents digitally will be a time saver when the client arrives at your medical office and is also a way to lower the risk of coronavirus for everyone present at the premises.
3. Offer Multiple Online Payment Options.
You can increase the likelihood of patient collection by offering multiple payment options that include cash, credit/debit card online payments, and check payments.
4. Offer Payment Plans to Patients Who Are Loyal to Your Practice.
Offering an incentive to self-pay may encourage patients to pay promptly. In States where permissible, medical practices can offer a discount on patient balances for payments made within the first thirty days. It is an advisable short-term strategy before the tide of economic stress affects a more significant number of your patients.
The other alternative is repayment plans, which allow patients to repay in installments. Patients can automate monthly repayment (via a credit card or a bank account on file) through your practice’s patient portal.
If your patient portal does not have this facility, speak to your software vendor for an upgrade. Although spending more money may seem counterintuitive at this stage, collecting recurring automated payments is a patient collection strategy worth investing in for the long-term.
5. Proactive Communication with Patients Through Text and Secure Emails.
A billing statement is typically the only financial communication most practices send to patients, and that too after the medical services have been rendered. But the present healthcare crisis requires physician practices to adopt a more proactive approach to communicating with patients.
Your collection agency must be up to speed as you implement the revised patient collection strategy. Once a patient has expressed difficulty in meeting their co-pay obligations and consented to a repayment plan, ensure that you minimize the payment reminders, or hold the account for collections follow-ups, as this may cause undue stress. You could stay the collections efforts (by another 30 to 60 days) on some overdue accounts of patients that have been with the practice for a long time and notify these patients via email of the one-time extended grace period.
If you want to improve patient collections, following is a list of questions that need to be asked:
- Does your practice management software have the ability to check the copay amount?
- Does your staff have the time to do the initial eligibility check?
- Can you outsource the pre-visit eligibility check to your billing company?
- Are your sending information on appointment cost at least two days prior to the appointment?
- Does your office staff understand the CMS guidelines on billing during COVID-19?
- Is your EMR equipped to receive patient documents digitally?
- Are you accepting online payments??
- Are you proactively communicating repayment plans to patients?
- Is your collections company in sync with your collections policy?
There may be nothing groundbreaking in these patient collection strategies, but the simplest ideas often have the biggest impact when you get them right.
More than ever before, the current economic crisis requires sensitivity in dealing with patients and their families. Making these changes to your patient collection strategy will ensure that your patients are the most vocal ambassadors of your practice for years to come.