Deposits, CoPayments and Balance Due
Do you always collect amounts due at the time of service? You should! The Medical Group Management Association reported that the chances of collecting a copayment from the patient drops approximately 16% the moment they leave without paying. And remember, if your average reimbursement for an office visit is $75, a $15 copay represents 20% of the visit's revenue. Moreover, your overall collection results may suffer if your patients leave your practice with the impression that payments are not expected when due.
Keys to Success
- If you don't already have a credit card machine or software program at the front desk, have one installed. Having a credit card payment option significantly improves the likelihood of payment, and merchant banking costs are quickly surpassed by the increase in payments.
- Second, inform patients ahead of time wherever possible of your policies and expectation for payment.
- Finally, set the standard with both patients and your staff that collecting amounts due at the time of service is expected for every visit where it applies, support your employees in their collection efforts, and enforce the policy consistently.
Patients will be far more receptive to a request for payment at the front desk if they are aware of your policies ahead of time. For example, if you require a deposit prior to a procedure or surgery, be sure the patient is informed in writing at an earlier visit or in your pre-visit forms. The best way to do this is with your Financial Agreement Policy, outlining your payment policies in detail. Every patient should sign your Financial Agreement Policy prior to receiving treatment, or as soon as reasonably possible in the case of emergency treatment. If you are a client of MedFocus, we have an excellent Financial Agreement Policy that you can use as a template in our Client Resource Library.
Further inform patients by posting a courteous but conspicuous sign indicating that copayments and amounts due are required by the patient’s contract with the insurance company, and expected at the time of service.
When confirming the appointment, diplomatically remind the patient of the amount that will be expected when they arrive, for example:
Training Your Staff
Hold your front desk staff accountable for collecting amounts due at the time of service. This is easy to do with the use of a copayment collection report, which quantifies collections at the front desk objectively.
You can help your staff to collect with confidence with these tips:
Give them verbiage to use or a simple script along the lines of:"Good morning! You're here for your ten o'clock appointment, great. It looks like you have a copayment of $20. How would you like to pay for that this morning?"
Shy or new staff often benefit from watching someone like the office manager demonstrate how to collect in a friendly, positive, expectant manner, watching how collections can be done effectively while maintaining good rapport with the patient. These interactions, like all patient contact, should be cordial, respectful, and professional.
Ensure that front desk staff are trained to determine the correct amount of the copayment, deposit or amount due, so that they can ask for the amount with confidence.
A major reason staff are reluctant to ask for payment is that they don't know what to do if the patient refuses. It is very important that you have a policy in place that addresses this potential scenario, including items such as:
- What the policy is for patients who arrive unwilling or unable to pay a deposit or balance due,
- Who will handle these patients,
- If you will allow a copayment grace for patients, how many times it can be used, and what the staff should do if a patient surpasses the limit.
When your staff enforces your standards, support them. Staff and patients will quickly learn if the policy is regularly undercut by clinic leadership.
As a final note, remember that the process of cash collection goes hand-in-hand with good cash control practices.