Collecting money is one of those tasks that falls under “necessary” and “aggravating” at the same time. When you consider the medical profession, where the primary drive is to alleviate suffering by addressing a condition, illness, emergency or whatever, the cost isn’t foremost on anyone’s minds. But at the end of the day, everyone who worked has to get paid. Suddenly, the family member who started off saying “Treat my kid, regardless of the expense!” finds themselves looking at the bill afterward and having second thoughts.
Here are some things to keep in mind when collecting money from patients.
Consider Accepting Plastic
The article “Collecting from Patients in a Difficult Economy” brings up an excellent point. Considering how many people use credit cards for just about any expense, this is a great way of settling the bill. Allowing patients to pay by credit card not only allows them to spread the expense over a period, but it’s also easy to use, and the patient can even pay online!
Mention should be made here of individual credit cards that are designed for handling medical, dentistry, vision, and veterinary expenses, and can’t be used for purchasing ordinary goods and services. Cards such as Care Credit can be a real life-saver for patients, and you’ll get your money faster.
Be Open To A Payment Plan
These days, if a patient undergoes even a brief hospital visit or outpatient procedure, they inevitably get billed by several different care providers. One bill may come from the radiologist, another from the lab, and yet another from the specialist who consulted on the case. That means that the poor patient is trying to accommodate not just one health care account, but multiple ones. Savvy practices and providers allow patients to make a monthly payment arrangement. A patient who would balk at a $2,000 bill due in 21 days will be far more amenable to a 10-month plan of $200 a month.
Have Good Front Desk Staff
Your first line of defense are the people who are actually in contact with patients every step of the way. It’s a huge advantage to have people who can be sympathetic, reasonable, knowledgeable about your policies, and can tell when to put the hammer down. These are the kind of professionals who can clearly communicate difficult concepts to otherwise clueless patients, without putting them off.
Get Some Of The Money Before They Leave
That may sound a little crass, but it makes a lot of sense. The urgency that patients and their families feel when the care is being administered wears off after they all go home, and the experience fades from memory. When the crisis is over, it’s back to business as usual. That’s why it’s sound practice to try and collect co-pays, deductibles, or co-insurance payments before they literally and figuratively walk out the door.
Combine A Follow-Up And Payment Reminder Call
If there’s still an outstanding balance several weeks after the treatment, give the patient a call to follow up and see how they’re doing. During such a call, there’s no reason you can’t slip in a helpful reminder about an overdue balance.
It’s never fun to ask people for money owed to you, but if handled carefully and using some of the above ideas, the task’s unpleasantness can be mitigated to a greater degree.