Let’s face it: healthcare — and particularly post-acute providers — have traditionally been late to the party when it comes to the right tools and technology to make things easier, and billing is no different.
All of the surrounding industries, for example, have adopted the simple step of keeping a card on file, which virtually guarantees payment and also saves a ton of time and effort in the collections game. Even healthcare practices from pediatricians and vision clinics to dentists and audiologists have adopted this approach and are reaping the benefits of getting paid sooner without all the extra labor resources. And that’s just one of several ways to help you increase patient collections. So why aren’t we doing this in the post-acute world?
The short answer is that some of you are but all of you should. And here’s why. Staff are expensive. By using technology and artificial intelligence – instead of adding staff — to fill in the gaps and streamline your revenue cycle management, your patient collections will be faster, easier and bigger. And that technology is already available today and getting stellar results.
Here are 4 ways that you can start increasing patient collections today.
- Keep a card on file. This is one of the easiest and most effective ways to help ensure profitability, but that’s not the only reason you need to adopt the card on file approach.It’s so much cheaper. A lot of providers I talk to are afraid to spend the money, but the card on file method saves your business money. You save all the time and labor resources as well as the overhead costs of having to have a human chase the payment after the fact. On top of that, the USPS raised postage rates again — with a first-class stamp now costing $.63 — and that doesn’t count the paper and the labor it costs to send a bill.
It’s still personalized. Many people believe that patients aren’t notified that their debit, credit or HSA/FSA card is going to be charged, but that’s just not true. With Brightree Patient Collections, we always give a 10- to 20-day notice to patients before their card is charged, which allows plenty of time to ask questions about a bill.
It means no delays. Think about your billing relationship with Netflix and Amazon. You can’t utilize their services without having a card on file because it ensures payment for services rendered – and it speeds up delivery for the consumer. Now think about recurring patient supplies and rental equipment. When you offer this as a service, you need a way to ensure you get paid for that very expensive equipment and supplies. By making sure a card is secured, everyone wins. The patient encounters no delays, and the provider gets paid.
It gets you paid on time. Getting paid on time is now very much expected in revenue cycle management, so you shouldn’t beat yourself up for asking patients to pay for services required to maintain your cash flow. By treating your patients as you would a commercial payer just like Cigna and Blue Cross, you can collect what you’re owed. And by using the card on file method, what you’re owed will also be paid on time.
It increases your profitability. Period. Many providers who first come to talk to us are only collecting 40-50% of their patients’ copays. That’s not a winning percentage for any business. Collections jump to the 70s when they start using some of our services. And then when they start keeping a card on file for any recurring patient needs, whether that be service or equipment, provider collection rates jump to well into the 90s. In fact, seeing collections up to 97% is not unusual and completely attainable. Providers need to find a more cost-effective, efficient and sustainable way to collect for services, and sending out snail mail (and waiting for a payment to be sent back) is not the answer.
- Make it easy for your patients to pay. If you’ve like me, when you go online to try to pay a healthcare bill, it’s typically difficult to find the bill pay site because it’s buried within several menus. During COVID, we knew providers were running lean, so we rolled out an IVR Payment line, which is simply an 800 number that is printed on the patient bill. They can call 24 x 7 to make a payment rather than trying to navigate making the payment online. And the value of this service is proving to be big – with providers saving on average 10 hours a month and collecting on average $25 for every $1 spent.
- Send a reminder. Most providers tell me they simply don’t have the staff to handle outreach calls to patients about their outstanding bills. With artificial technology, you can place the calls automatically. In fact, providers using our Virtual Agent service report saving on average 15 hours per month because staff members no longer need to try to squeeze in these calls. In fact, Comprehensive Sleep Care Centers says they would have to hire another staff member to handle the tens of thousands of reminder calls that Virtual Agent handles for them each year. And this method takes the chase out of chasing down payments with an increase in collections of $9 for every $1 spent.
- Don’t sweat the details. Some providers are worried about losing control of patient collections, but that simply isn’t the case with the right service. At Brightree Patient Collections, for example, we provide a dashboard so that the provider has access to all the details. And our customers report that being able to monitor but not having to manage the details brings them comfort and trust along with the results.
It’s time for healthcare — and post-acute providers in particular — to catch up with other industries. If you’re not providing all the ways that a patient can pay and ensuring that you can secure your assets, then you’re already behind. The good news is that the tools and technology are already here to streamline your revenue cycle management and make it easier for you to collect from your patients. And the results make it a must.
Jennifer Leon, Vice President of Brightree Patient Collections
Jennifer Leon is the Vice President of Brightree Patient Collections, where she leads a team of experts in helping providers collect and retain more private pay.
Jennifer has held a succession of positions enabling her to develop a deep understanding of the private pay collection process, including the best practices for optimal operational performance.
She serves on the Medtrade Education Advisory Council and is a frequent contributor to HME News’ Smart Talk and HomeCare Magazine and to the speaking circuit at national and state shows.