Stop patient bad debt from putting you out of business

by Carl Mays II

In a recent Transunion survey of hospital administrators, nearly half of the surveyed administrators say their hospitals have experienced a 6 percent to 10 percent increase in uninsured and underinsured patients since early 2007. Almost 30 percent observed an increase of 11 percent to 20 percent. The survey covered hospitals in 15 states.

Additional important information in the survey included:

– Almost 80 percent of hospitals executives are worried that Consumer Directed Healthcare Plans will cause bad debt to grow over the next 24 months.

– Hospital executives are spending a lot of time worrying about patient collection issues. Improving patient collections was the number one priority for over 40% of executives. Close to 20% have focusing on lowering bad debt as their top goal.

Given the current economic times and the trend outlined in the survey, it is critical to excel at patient collections. It is critical to use ll of the tips, tricks and tools available to improve patient collections. Without the latest (and proven) approaches it is easy to spend a lot of resources without much result in patient collections:

– Expand your use of the latest generation of on-line bill presentment and payment acceptance services/applications. These latest tools prevent you from ever being unable to accept a form of payment and they can lower your cost of pursuing patient balances.

– Do not allow you credit card readers to be a bottleneck. The latest ones are inexpensive (since they are software based and hook up to a front desk PC). You should have at least two both for backup purposes and to facilitate taking payments from multiple patients at once. In addition, try and use one that converts checks to electronic payments for almost instantaneous processing of checks.

– Establish a consistent policy on whether you’ll reschedule these patients or let them see the doctor and mail in their money later. If you choose the latter route, make it easy for patients to remember their responsibility. Hand them a self-addressed envelope marked “COPAY-URGENT”.

– Prioritize patient collection efforts by more than just the balance owed. Consider the patients likelihood to pay. A $1,000 balance from a patient that is only 20% likely to pay is worth much less than a $500 balance from a patient that is 80% likely to pay. Elements to consider when accessing likeliness to pay include prior payment history and employment status.

– Track how well your front desk staff collects co pays and coinsurance. Reward and discipline accordingly.

These steps can help you avoid falling prey to rising bad debt.

Copyright 2008. Carl Mays II

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