Dealing with Patient Debt

We all know that time is precious when it comes to medical accounts receivable management. With every passing day, the likelihood of getting paid is less and less. The continuing climate of payment burden on the patient only makes it worse, and there is no end in sight. For most practices and hospitals, outstanding patient balances make up the majority of accounts receivable. Patients with insurance find that rising premium payments leave less money to pay deductibles and coinsurance. Patients without insurance often don’t have access to resources that help them deal with medical bills.

See a Decrease in Accounts Receivable with a Few Easy Steps

There are ways to see a decrease in accounts receivable for patient balances. When followed, the below steps in the accounts receivable process will help you combat rising patient balances before a claim is even submitted.

1. Start at the beginning

Your accounts receivable process begins with the first appointment. It is imperative that when appointments are scheduled, ALL correct information is obtained from the patient. Every detail on the insurance card is essential. For example, if there is only a middle initial for a middle name, the initial, and not the full name, needs to be put in the patient record. A phone number where the patient can be reached should also be mandatory. Correct demographics often result in a dramatic decrease in accounts receivable.

2. Make sure the patient is aware of any authorizations required

No patient likes to have a surprise medical bill because of a denied claim due to no authorization. During scheduling, confirm with the patient that they are aware an authorization is needed and that authorizations usually have a time-frame and they need to be seen within that time-frame.Also, make sure that all front desk staff knows that patients must have a valid authorization on the day of the appointment.

3. Verify, verify, verify

Any issues with insurance must be cleared-up before the patient sees the healthcare provider. Be sure to check active coverage at least three days before the visit.In cases where there is an issue, the patient should be called, and correct information entered into the system and then verified. Many tools are now available to estimate costs going toward deductible balances.In cases where a significant payment may arise, you may want to consider putting a procedure in place to contact that patient to discuss payment before the appointment.

4. The front desk should be responsible for the accuracy of demographics at every appointment

There is no denying that front desks can become busy and sometimes stressful.However, overlooking details at the time of service creates claim difficulties that could have been avoided.Many offices still utilize a paper intake form for new patients.In these cases, we recommend that the front desk staff be required to sign the intake form to confirm it has been checked for accuracy.This is an efficient and effective way to ensure correct information is obtained, and it also makes it easy to pinpoint who may need additional training if accurate demographics become a problem in the revenue cycle. Also, we recommend that there is some way to record in the patient record that the front desk has checked for changes in demographics at every visit. Ideally, this process should include the front desk staff’s name or initials.

5. Outstanding payments collected at time of service

If a patient owes a balance to the practice, and the practice is aware, every effort to collect that balance must be made while the patient is in the office.A big issue with collecting balances at the time of service can be the revenue cycle itself. Sometimes it is difficult to discern from a patient ledger what is owed by the patient and what is still awaiting a response from a payer. Because of this, we recommend a balance sheet is prepared a day beforehand. This process is relatively simple:an office manager looks at the patient schedule a day before and creates a sheet of outstanding balances to be collected at the front desk.At the end of the day, the sheet should be reviewed by the office manager with the front desk to see how many balances were collected. Medical accounts receivable management is the responsibility of the entire office and involving administrators, and the front desk will further the message that everyone has a part to play.

Attention to detail before a provider even sees a patient can make a huge difference in medical accounts receivable management.Following the above five steps in the accounts receivable process can help you decrease patient balances within a few short weeks.

Interested in other ways to cut your accounts receivable? Contact us today to learn how we can help you realize a decrease in accounts receivable and boost your revenue.