The Art of Collecting Your Due
It sometimes is the elephant in the room with you and your patient: money. You provide a service, and you should be paid for your professionalism, expertise and time. However, collecting the money you’re due is often not easy, and too often, months go by before you receive payment. While insurance procedures can complicate the collections process, your practice does not have to bear the weight of money owed; there are steps you can take to insure the efficient collection of money.
1) Define expectations and be consistent. Collections are a vital part of managing any business. Traditional healthcare providers and alternative providers alike face challenges when collecting money. Slow collections, unfortunately, have become the status quo. Collecting money requires that physicians and caregivers take a preventive and thorough approach to establishing their collection protocol. One tenet of this approach is open communication: The more a patient knows about what is expected of them prior to their appointment, the less problem you will have collecting money. For example, prepare their chart and verify insurance information prior to their appointment. If there is an issue with coverage, contact the client and discuss it. If there is no insurance coverage, or their insurance will not cover the charge for your service, let them know your policy of “payment due at time of service.” Consistency is important, too; don’t change procedures from one client visit to another. Have a system that is simple and clear: pre-registration; collection at time of service; and consistent, timely invoicing. Also, make it a goal to invoice daily and manage accounts receivables weekly. Know the status of a patient’s last payment before scheduling another appointment.
2) Establish relationships with insurance companies. It’s much easier to work with insurance companies than to fight them, so establish a professional and clear relationship with the insurance companies you work with and know how they need their transmittals to look. Understand their expectations and do it their way. Establish a rapport with someone who works at each insurance company, and contact them with questions; it’s in your best interest to become an insurance expert by knowing the codes and response time for claims. Know the insurance companies better than your patients do. Know what the client is responsible for and collect this at the time of service.
3) Be informed and stay involved. While you have a lot to do as a business owner, it’s important to remember that the only person looking out for the well being of your practice is you. Schedule time to review client accounts. Know where you are with accounts receivable, and take an active role in keeping them less than 30 days past due.
4) If you don’t ask, you won’t get. Be proactive about payments – you can’t get paid if you don’t invoice. Don’t be afraid to ask for money you are owed from a patient. Collect balances not covered by insurance, deductibles and co-pays at the end of the appointment. You charge a fair price for services rendered, and are entitled to timely payment.
Keep in mind: Collecting money is easiest when an organized procedure is in place and expectations are clearly defined. How effectively you collect payment depends on the organization of your business management systems. While collecting money is not the reason you are in business, it is a necessary requirement to stay in business. Your service is valuable and you deserve to be paid for it.
Monte Zwang is a principal of Wellness Capital Management, providing cash flow and financial strategies to businesses in the wellness and medical industries. Monte has been a consultant for more than 25 years, teaching entrepreneurs and company leaders in healthcare, real estate, resorts and hotels and retail industries the strategies of cash flow management.