According to the National Business Group on Health, in 2017, 35% of large employers offered only high-deductible health plans, compared to nearly 33% in 2015, and 22% in 2014. High out-of-pocket patient expenses make it difficult for practices to increase or stabilize profitability when patients are less likely to pay.
Here are six tips your practice can implement to avoid revenue loss due to the rise in high-deductible health plans and patient’s resulting financial responsibility.
1. GATHER PATIENTS’ INSURANCE AND CONTACT INFORMATION BEFORE THEIR APPOINTMENTS.
Make sure staff collect complete and current information when the patient calls to make an appointment or give patients the option to mail or email it to you instead. Your online appointment tools should have fields to collect this information as well. Having accurate information will allow your team to verify coverage and follow up with the patient throughout the treatment and billing process.
2. VERIFY INSURANCE ELIGIBILITY AND IDENTIFY ANY AMOUNTS DUE FROM PRIOR PATIENT VISITS.
Check with payers before patient visits to verify coverage and clarify payer rules before or at the time of service. This will help staff pinpoint changes that may have occurred, identify what portion of charges for the expected treatment will be covered, and calculate patient responsibility for payment.
3. COLLECT COPAYS AND OTHER BALANCES AT THE FRONT DESK WHEN PATIENTS CHECK IN.
The best time to collect payment from patients is before they reach the exam room. Make your policy clear to patients, enforce it routinely, and consider the option of rescheduling nonemergency appointments when patients can’t or won’t adhere. If possible, use your electronic health record (EHR) to send automated appointment reminders that communicate payments due at the time of service.
4. OFFER MULTIPLE PAYMENT METHODS.
The flexibility to pay by cash, credit/debit card, or check increases the likelihood of collecting amounts due while the patient is in the office and can streamline your overall billing process. Having a convenient and easy-to-use online payment tool such as a patient portal can make collecting balances even more likely.
5. OFFER PAYMENT PLANS — AND TRACK THEM.
Establish plans that let patients pay larger balances over time, and train staff on how to communicate these options effectively and track them properly. Working with patients in this way will help your practice increase collections and give patients peace of mind knowing that they can pay for the treatments they need.
6. MAKE FOLLOW-UP PART OF THE COLLECTIONS ROUTINE.
Perseverance is key to maximizing collections for patients who don’t make timely payments. Develop a proactive routine for contacting patients and create a script for staff to follow. Your team should be fully prepared to request payment in full, discuss payment options, and develop a payment plan if needed.