8 Best Practices for Patient Collections | Kareo

8 Best Practices for Patient Collections

Lea Chatham March 14th, 2013

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By Rochelle Glassman

In my recent webinar, 3 Innovative Strategies to Improve Collections, I discussed collecting patient due amounts at the time of service as part of your medical billing strategy. I touched on patient collections and many attendees had questions about collections best practices for past due accounts. Here is my detailed guide for best practices on turning patients over to collections.

Whatever collections efforts you make, one rule always applies: Get busy as soon as possible and stay on the account until you’re paid. Send bills promptly and re-bill monthly. There’s no need to wait for the end of the month. Send past due notices promptly once an account is overdue.

  1. Don’t harass. Don’t harass people who owe you money, but let them know that you follow these matters closely. Don’t leave more than one phone message per day for the debtor (person responsible for payment), and never leave messages that threaten the debtor or contain statements that put the debtor in a bad light.
  2. Be direct, listen, and don’t get personal. Keep your calls short and be specific. Your goal should be to prevent the debtor from taking the call personally—that is, from associating the failure to pay as meaning a failure in life. Always stay calm but maintain a sense of urgency about getting paid.
  3. Get creative. If the customer has genuine financial problems, ask what amount they can realistically afford to pay. Consider extending the time for payment if the customer agrees in writing to a new payment schedule. Call the day before the next scheduled payment is due to be sure the customer plans to respect the agreement.
  4. Write demand letters. Along with phone calls, send a series of letters that escalate in intensity. Save copies of all correspondence with the customer and keep notes of all telephone conversations. You may need these if you hand the matter over to a collections agency or take the customer to court.
  5. Use a collections agency to send letters. You can pay a collection agency a fixed fee to write a series of letters on your behalf. This is different than turning over the debt to an agency. For example, Dun & Bradstreet Small Business Solutions (http://smallbusiness.dnb.com) will write a series of three letters for under $30. They will also make telephone collection calls on your behalf. Other companies such as Transworld Systems (www.transworldsystems.com) and
    I.C. System (www.icsystem.com) offer similar services.
  6. Offer a one-time deep discount. If an account is fairly large and remains unpaid for an extended period (say six months) and you’re doubtful about ever collecting on the debt, consider offering in writing a time-limited, deep discount to resolve the matter. You can finalize this with a mutual release and settlement, a legal document that terminates the debt.
  7. Have the Patient/Guarantor sign. Have a clause on the patient/new patient forms that states that any charges not covered by insurance are the responsibility of the patient/guarantor, including any collections fees incurred if turned over to collections.
    Example: In the event that your insurance is not valid or your coverage was terminated at the time the services are rendered, you will be solely responsible for the full amount of your office visit and/or any procedures rendered. In addition, if your insurance plan determines a service or procedure to be “not covered”, you will be responsible for the complete charge of such services. I agree to be responsible for the payment of all unpaid services rendered on my behalf or my dependents, including any fees for collection service needed.
  8. Turn the account over to a collection agency. Turning a debt over to collections is your last resort. A collection agency will usually pay you 50% of what it recovers. Of course, in some cases, half is better than nothing. Dun and Bradstreet Small Business Solutions, and the similar business services Transworld Systems and I.C. System, all offer debt collection services. The Commercial Collection Agency Association (www.ccascollect.com) provides more information on debt collection agencies.

In my last blog post, I answered the Top 5 Questions from attendees at the webinar. You can also check out the recorded webinar to get all of the great information provided there.

About the Author:

Rochelle Glassman

Rochelle Glassman Our guest speaker is Rochelle Glassman, a passionate advocate for physicians and medical practices who has devoted her career to helping doctors get paid. Rochelle is the President & CEO of United Physician Services, and is a nationally recognized healthcare consultant known for her candor, tenacity, and vision.

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