Collecting from patients at the time of service can be stressful to medical practice staff. Historically, asking for money seemed almost inappropriate, if not distasteful – a job for the business office, not the front office. Fortunately, staff can learn to take collections more seriously. An effective approach is to teach employees that transparency demonstrates respect for the patient, and that this transparency should include telling patients about their financial responsibility at the time of service.
Consider providing patients with these documents at the time of service:
• Summary of insurance coverage, benefits eligibility, and financial responsibility. When a practice verifies insurance, this summary is normally reviewed to validate the patients’ insurance. In addition to retaining the summary in the practice’s files, share a copy with the patient.
• Statement. Patients who have balances have likely received copies of their statements in the mail or viewed it online. When a patient who has a balance is on site, use the opportunity to print out and hand a copy of the statement to the patient.
• Explanation of benefits (EOB). The balances due from insured patients are most often in the form of deductibles or coinsurances. These amounts are outlined in writing on the patients’ EOB. While the patient may have already received it in the mail, why not share a copy of the EOB as you ask for payment? For patients with balances, download (or locate) the EOB the day before their appointments.
Will these efforts work? It’s likely that more patients will pay what’s due from them at the time of service. Of course, reaching 100% will be difficult. Some patients will request deferrals (what we call a “payment plan”); others may qualify for financial assistance from your practice; and, still others may simply refuse to pay. A commitment to transparency means taking a consistent approach to collections and setting expectations for payment which, in turn, reduces the burden and stress that patients feel when left in the dark.