When most doctors or healthcare professionals think of patient collections, they think of the billing processes and procedures initiated after services have been rendered. This typically means placing most of their collection efforts on the back-end stages of the revenue cycle when collecting from patients is often most difficult.
But in recent years, in response to the rise of slow-paying, self-pay patients, many medical practices are shifting their collection efforts to the front-end of the revenue cycle and requesting patient payment information before providing care. As a result, these healthcare providers are experiencing increased cash flows, decreased bad debt, and are able to reduce their recovery efforts on the back-end – saving them valuable amounts of time, effort, and money!
So what do we mean by shifting collection efforts to the front-end of the revenue cycle?
A front-end collections approach is more about collecting information as it is collecting money. As a healthcare facility, the two biggest pieces of information to gather and verify are the patient’s contact information, and the patient’s insurance coverage. These are the two key pieces of patient data to have a clear and accurate record of in order to facilitate a prompt payment in full.
Patient Contact Information
Literally every time one of your patients visits your office you should make it a habit to update and or verify their contact information. This means making sure you have the patient’s most recent address, phone number, email, and even place of employment. By having this information current and readily available, you will make contacting the patient (when it comes time to pay their bill) as smooth and easy as possible. As is well known around the medical collections industry, oftentimes the most difficult part about getting a patient to pay, is simply getting the patient on the phone. So make sure your patients’ contact information is up-to-date and don’t spend endless (and costly!) hours just trying to make contact with them when a bill comes due.
Patient Insurance Coverage
This step is as much about patient education as it is for improving your collection processes. When a patient checks in to your office, have a member of your administrative staff go over the their insurance policy and coverage so as to avoid confusion or a dispute when the patient receives their bill. Clearly explain the amount of the bill that will be covered by insurance and how much the patient will personally be responsible for. Go over the patient’s deductible or co-pay and make sure they have a clear understanding of their insurance status.
By explaining this before providing care, you will spend less time settling insurance disputes on the back-end and will be positioning your patients to pay their bills in a more timely and efficient fashion in the future. After all, insurance denials and disputes represent millions of dollars in lost revenue in the healthcare industry and must be avoided if you want to maintain a profitable and healthy bottom line. So take the time early on in the revenue cycle to confirm your patient’s insurance coverage and avoid these costly disputes and collect the revenue you deserve.
YOUR TURN: Historically, have you focused your collection efforts in the front-end of the revenue cycle? Or have you had more success when taking collection steps early in the patient billing process? What has worked well for you? We’d love to know!