RCM: 6 Ways to Improve Time of Service Collections Today
Many times, the first few months are extremely busy with everything from a surge of sick patients needing appointments, changes in insurances and demographics for patients, UDS and PCMH reporting and less we forget budgets! With all of the hustle and bustle, sometimes we forget to focus on cash in hand revenue. However, the first 3-6 months of the year is when our patients have deductibles to meet, changes in income for sliding fee qualifications, and for some, even more cash on hand from income tax refunds. There is not a better time than right now to quickly improve time of service collection efforts. Here are a few immediate and pretty easily implemented changes that your office can take today and improve your cash on hand.
- Ask. Patients actually need to know their patient balances and payments due today. If we never ask for the copay or ask for past due amounts, patients will remain unaware. We cannot rely on snail mail statements as a means of collecting patient balances. As a standard workflow procedure, every patient should be asked to pay outstanding balances, make payment plans, or pay copays due upfront. Our services are valuable, and we must ask for payment upon service.
- How do I ask for money? Use the simple rule; state the balance, tell the methods for payment. A script that your staff can implement and follow could be as simple as “Your balance is $, today your copay is $, your total due is $. We accept cash, checks and credit cards.” Notice that we did not tell the patient the balance is a current balance due? If a patient owes for more than a single statement date, that balance is not current. It is a message within a message. Notice that we did include balance, copay today and a total, along with the acceptable methods. Never ask a patient if they would like to pay today? The answer will always be no.
- Set the expectations in advance. Be sure to have a plan to speak to patients with extremely high balances before the appointment. Review your schedules in advance and set a goal to speak to each patient that presents for their appointment. Use your schedule templates wisely to allow time for the discussion before the appointment or immediately after.
- Cash Discounts. If your policy allows for discounts, now is the time to offer a cash “settlement” for outstanding patient balances. Patients want to pay their providers. That is a fact, as the patient relates their care to their accounts. Offering a cash discount for payment in full will not only help your accounts receivables but most importantly relieve a burden on the patient.
- Incentivize the front-end staff. Set a reasonable goal to increase the time of service collections and measure that goal closely. Be creative. Incentivize each location for the highest weekly increases, highest monthly overall increases and most importantly, the highest staff collections. Give prizes, bring in a lunch for the winners, recognize the staff at employee meetings. Donuts are always good!
- Scripting. There is proof that scripting is a highly successful way to improve most front-end processes. If we all say the same thing, in the same language, the patient understands that everyone asks. Scripting is also an easy way to ensure that staff does not add to the message in any way. Consistency is very important in the office and when baking a cake. Don’t miss the important ingredients.
Finally, make eye contact and smile. This simple communication between the staff and the patient has started to die a quick death in the past few years. It is a fact that eye contact and a smile can not only improve your very own health, it can do so many things to improve our relationships with our patients. Patients need to know we are here to help. Ask using scripted methods, set the expectations with eye contact and a smile, offer a discount and remember to reward good behavior.