You've heard every excuse in the book from your patients on why they can't pay their medical bills. But have you considered that your medical practice employees may be contributing to the problem?
In healthcare, if you want to make money, you have to ask for it. For some physicians and employees, this can be an unwelcome aspect of their jobs. Compassionate staff may be reluctant to ask, or not know how to ask for payment during patient check-in.
Thankfully, this culture is reversible. MGMA member Annette Hai, RN, RNFA, CPC, ACS-UR and practice administrator for Affiliates in Urology in Westland, Mich., successfully transformed the practice's collection culture. In three years, she increased upfront collections to 98 percent. When employees and patients understand that the practice has to cover its costs (or go out of business) both parties can become more eager to do their part.
MGMA members can log in and read the article about Hai's methods in the MGMA Connexion magazine to find out how she did it. Enjoy this excerpt, featuring some sample scripts that will make your front office staff more comfortable when faced with financial questions.
Patient: "I didn't know I owed this."
Response: "Your insurance company and our office sends statements informing you of your obligation. We call all patients with balances and remind them that payments are due. We called you on _______. The doctor has performed a service and should be paid for it."
P: "I don't have any money with me."
R: "We accept all major credit and debit cards. We do require patients to pay for the services the day they receive them, and did inform you of our office financial policy. It is your responsibility to know your insurance and pay for the portion that is not covered. Would you like to go and make the payment or reschedule your appointment?"
P: "I forgot my checkbook."
R: "We accept all major credit and debit cards. I can swipe your card today and preauthorize any future payments so you won't have to worry."
P: "I mailed a payment just yesterday."
R: "Oh, you should have saved the stamp since you had a scheduled appointment and brought the payment with you. That way we would have no questions about a payment being due. I can swipe your credit card and preauthorize a payment. We won't charge your credit card unless we don't receive the payment."
P: "I just lost my job."
R: "I am so sorry. This is affecting so many people. Unfortunately, we are being affected by this economic downturn as well, and unless we collect what is owed, we can't pay our bills here and then we are at risk of losing our jobs. I can offer you a payment plan or refer you to a subsidized clinic."
P: "I'll pay you after the doctor sees me."
R: "I understand your frustration and know that this may seem unusual, but we are bound by our contracts with the insurance company to collect from patients before they are seen. We don't make these rules but are forced to follow them and pride ourselves on running an ethical and legal practice."
P: "I never had to do this before. No other doctor's office does this."
R: "I can't speak for other offices, but we are following our contract requirements with insurance companies or our office policy. I am sure you will start seeing this more in the future. We pride ourselves on being recognized as one of the top 10 urology practices in the country for our administrative procedures since we really try to do everything to the letter of the recommended practices."
Do you use sample scripts in your practice? Share in the comments.