Almost every practice I speak with has issues with collecting payments from patients. There are so many things that can happen, and the last thing you want is for your patients to leave your practice confused or angry because they aren’t clear about their bill.
When I was chatting with one of our speakers, Rhonda Granja, BS, CMC, CMOM, CMA, CPC, recently, I asked her about front desk collections, and she offered three tips that can help your front desk workers make their lives easier and more productive.
Tip 1: Review your financial policy. Patients are paying as much attention to their financial health as they are to their medical health, Granja says. That means your patient financial policy can be a critical tool for setting expectations associated with due dates, acceptable payment forms, and consequences, such as late fees. It also establishes consistency, ensuring all providers and staff follow the same rules.
Once you’ve made sure that your financial policy is up to date, be sure to review it with patients both during pre-service and at the time of service to ensure they understand it. “Ask your staff to let patients know that you’ve updated the policy during appointment reminder calls and feature it prominently on your patient portal,” Granja says. And make sure to provide patients with a copy when they complete paperwork at the time of service.
Tip 2: Use technology to your benefit. Today’s collection strategies require a substantial behavior change for patients because they are no longer asked for a small co-pay. Instead, they might be blindsided by a high deductible or a consumer-driven health plan that requires them to pay a large portion of their healthcare costs. Consequently, front desk staff are frequently tasked with the entire time-of-service collections process, from generating estimates to reviewing charges and collecting payments. And patients often subject them to a barrage of questions.
Granja suggests arming your front desk team with technology to streamline the patient payment process, including generating estimates and setting up payment plans. “You can improve productivity, instill greater confidence and ultimately increase collections,” Granja notes. “Automating key parts of this process puts the focus where it needs to be — asking for payment — and allows staff to work smarter rather than harder.”
Tip 3: Practice, practice, practice. Even if you’ve given your front desk staff all the right tools and technology, they may struggle when patients put them on the spot with questions. Patients may want to know how they can be sure their credit card information is secure or demand reassurances that an estimate is accurate. Role-playing may be the answer to make your staffers more comfortable by allowing them to practice how to react to patients, Granja suggests. “By responding to typical questions, team members can gain confidence and get comfortable providing various explanations,” she adds.
You can also try generating scripts that can help your staff. This provides them with talking points and responses to frequently asked questions so they’re ready to go, and you and your organization will benefit from the confidence and consistency your front line workers will demonstrate, Granja points out. Plus, your patients will have their questions answered quickly and with authority, leaving them with a positive overall impression of your practice.
- Make sure your financial policy is up to date and use it as a tool to ensure patients understand their payment responsibilities. It makes a great reference point for your front desk staffers.
- Make technology work for you to generate estimates and payment plans.
- Give your staff a chance to practice patient interactions with scripts and roll-playing.
For more strategies for effective front desk collections, check out Coding Leader’s online training session — Collections: Improve Pay-up and Verification Accuracy at Your Front Desk.