We’ve covered how to improve collections in this blog, including a post dedicated to the importance of collecting at the time of service. Accounts receivable management, however, is a topic worthy of revisiting from time to time because even practices with the very best collection habits can get lax in this area and not realize it until the result shows up on the bottom line. Here are a few reminders and tips on how to keep your collection efforts strong and accounts receivable in good shape.
- Monitor your accounts receivable regularly and thoroughly. If you see A/R days or bad debt figures creeping up, take action immediately. Waiting and hoping that the situation will “turn around over time” is rarely an effective strategy.
- Have a straightforward collection policy and make it available to patients in print and on your Web site. When patients are aware that the expectation is for payment at the time of service, that co-pays are collected at each and every visit, and that statements are to be paid in a timely manner, the job of both the front desk and billing staff becomes much easier.
- Fewer of us are walking around with a checkbook in our purse or pocket these days and many people have become accustomed to carrying little if any cash. Credit and debit cards are the payment method of choice for the majority of patients, including yours. If you’re not already accepting all major credit cards, put getting that system set up at the top of your to-do list. You’ll be surprised by how simple it is and how much it will improve your ability to not only collect at the time of service, but also for patients to pay the statements they receive by mail in a more timely manner.
- Keep enough change on hand to accommodate patients who do still pay with cash. Someone presenting a $100 bill to make a $25 co-pay should not cause front office staff to panic and run around trying to gather change from every purse and wallet in the building. Balance your change drawer at the end of each day (just as you do with petty cash), make a daily bank deposit if you do collect a fair amount of cash, and lock up your cash drawer at night.
- For patients who have large balances not covered by insurance or after insurance pays, offer to set them up on a payment plan, but make it a reasonable one. Ideally, a payment plan should not run longer than six months.
Unlike 20 years ago when many people had the attitude that all doctors were “rich” and could be paid after every other bill was taken care of, today most patients are aware the practices are businesses that require cash flow and they’ve become accustomed to paying their medical bills in a timely manner. The job of the collections team – including front desk staff – is to help patients maintain that attitude by following consistent collection policies.