How to improve patient collections in your urology practice

October 1, 2010

As employers (and individuals) select health insurance plans with higher deductibles that place more financial responsibility on the patient, it's more important than ever that medical practices revamp front office collection procedures and place more responsibility on the front office staff.

This is a difficult transition for staff that is accustomed to simply asking for small co-payments, giving little or no attention to the patient's total outstanding balance. It's time to address this and update practice financial polices to ensure you keep the accounts receivable (AR) in a safe zone.

A safe zone for urology practices nationwide, based on recent Medical Group Management Association statistics for the average urologist, is a total AR of no more than $209,299 per full-time physician, with the amount aged 90 days or more accounting for 15.53% of the total.

Start by establishing policies and procedures that address patient collections:

Next, educate everyone: physicians, staff, and patients. If everyone has a clear understanding of the expectations and management has established methods to enforce financial policies, you will have a better chance of success.

Physicians must understand it is their responsibility to stay out of patient finances. If a patient asks a doctor about paying his bill, the physician needs to send the patient to the billing department.

The entire staff should be educated about the new policy and procedures to ensure consistency and needed support. Those involved in collecting from the patient (at time of service and later on) need training on what has changed and what is expected. Provide them with a clear understanding of their responsibilities and the processes essential to communicate and collect from patients. If receptionists are uncomfortable asking for payment, have them role-play with the collection staff and provide additional support during the transition period.

It is important to communicate to patients in advance. If they are accustomed to small co-pays or lax payment policies, you will need to educate them so they will be prepared and will cooperate with your higher payment expectations. It's also your job to help them understand that this is their responsibility, is based on their insurance coverage, and is not a matter of you suddenly playing hardball with them.