It’s inevitable. Every business has customers or patients with unpaid balances. It’s frustrating & unpleasant to have to ask people to pay you what is owed. Even if you haven’t had enormous amounts of bad debt during your time in private practice, unpaid invoices can simply be ignored or written-off too quickly. Especially when they add up to have a negative impact on your cash flow.
After all, a positive cash flow is necessary for the daily operations of your practice. Expenses like employee salaries, operating costs, purchasing inventory, & paying taxes are all part of the daily operations of any business. If your cash flow doesn’t cover those expenses, you may not have a business in the months to come.
Here are 4 strategies to consider to collect on overdue invoices & maintain a positive cash flow:
1. Empower front-desk staff
Front-desk staff are critical to the success of your patient payment collections process. They deal with patient payments every day & it’s very likely that they have insights that could enhance your practice’s success. Here are a few ways to talk to your staff & ultimately, empower them:
- Get their input on your practice’s current patient payment policy. Along with making them aware of any changes in policies as soon as possible, it is also worth considering their experience with patients. It might be time to schedule an in-house brainstorming session to decide if anything should be added or updated to your current payment policy.
For tips on what to include in your patient payment policy, click here.
- Get their take on the practice’s technology. It’s only half the equation to have the right technology in place. To really see the benefits of technology on your practice’s finances, you need to talk to staff about how user-friendly your medical billing software is. Do they know how to use all the features? Is it enhancing your patient collection processes by enabling staff to check patient benefits prior to the consult, send claims in real-time & invoice patients at the time of service? Can they identify any gaps in functionality or usability that you need to know? Now is the time to find out.
To get an idea of your practice’s current level of success with patient collections, try our quiz, here.
- Listen to their experience of collecting from patients. Talking to patients about payments – & especially outstanding payments – can be challenging. Your staff must be comfortable communicating the relevant parts of your patient collection processes. Ideally, your staff need to be polite, professional, & effective across a variety of scenarios.
For tips on how to talk to your patients about co-payments, click here.
2. Determine your payment policy & stick to it
There’s a good chance that you may have had to relax policies or bend some of your own rules around collections during COVID-19. But it’s probably a good time to review your payment policy if you haven’t done so in the last 2 years. Update your practice payment policy with any changes you want to make & as mentioned, share those changes with your staff.
When reviewing your payment policy keep the following in mind:
- Your payment policy is the basis of your patient collections journey. It should clearly outline the responsibilities of the patient & the practice. Importantly, once those responsibilities have been communicated – they must be enforced, or the policy is meaningless.
- Update the policy with the payment methods you accept. Remember to include cashless or contactless payment options you may have implemented.
- Include payment terms & processes for collecting payments & reimbursement from medical aids.
- Make a point of using conversational, easy-to-understand language to explain patient responsibility. Your policy shouldn’t read like a legal document, it should be accessible for all patients to understand & comply with.
For more information on what to include in your payment policy, click here.
3. Look for alternative ways to collect payment
You may be a General Practitioner, Paediatrician or other healthcare professional that treats siblings & the rest of the family. As such, ask your staff to look at the family accounts – perhaps there are credits that could be moved from one account to another. Patients are thrilled when you can reduce their bill, & of course, it is always better to apply a credit to an overdue account than to issue a refund.
4. Don’t keep chasing patients
Despite all your best efforts, there will always be the unrelenting non-paying patient. In the end, every phone call, email & SMS to try to bring in payment costs your practice money. It can get to the point that the cost of collecting exceeds the value of the outstanding invoice. Don’t keep chasing a non-payer. Set very clear rules on how many reminders a patient will receive. If you notice that your cash flow is at risk due to the volume of patients not paying, it may be time to look to a professional bureau to take over collections. A bureau service takes over the admin of collecting, freeing you up to do what you do best – treat patients.
Healthbridge has been the partner of choice for medical practices for over 20 years. To find out how you can bolster your patient collections, click here.
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