Take control of your accounts receivable

December 1, 2006

Managers and the billing departments of most urology practices strive to get the money off the books and into the bank, but managing accounts receivable continues to be a daunting task that absorbs a fair amount of resources. This article offers a few practical tips that will make managing accounts receivable a lot easier.

We all know it starts with upfront data collection and collecting at the time of service. Regardless, urology practices can still expect their accounts receivable to be equal to 1.4 months of average charges, according to the National Association of Healthcare Consultants/Society of Medical-Dental Consultants. The Medical Group Management Association's cost survey reveals that almost 18% of this is aged beyond 90 days, making it more difficult to collect.

The first step to moving collections in the right direction is to examine your claims follow-up process and find ways to expedite and streamline it. If you are handling this manually or preparing hard copy tracers, you are doing it the hard way. Find out what your practice management system can do for you to automate this entire process and ensure it is done on an ongoing basis.

Review your statements

Next, take a critical look at the statement you are sending your patients. Patients often tell me they are frustrated when they receive a bill from their doctor, many times because it includes charges they don't understand. But more important, patients are unsure of what they owe and what has been billed to the insurance company.

If these problems occur with your patient statements, it's time to talk with a representative for your practice management system and define new parameters and a simple design for your patient statement so it reflects exactly what the patient's payment responsibility is. Look over your dunning messages and be sure they are in line with your written financial policies and what your staff is telling the patient. Remember that it's your responsibility to enforce what your dunning messages state. For example, if your 120-day statement says the account will be turned over to collections within 30 days, you must do this. Otherwise, it is considered a threat and violates the Fair Debt Collection Act. (For more information, visit http://www.ftc.gov/.)

Another key to a less confusing statement is timely write-offs. Whenever you receive an insurance payment, audit the account immediately, verify the accuracy of the claims adjudication, and then make the adjustment on the account. If there's an error on the payer's part, begin processing the appeal as soon as possible.

If you are not doing so already, consider supplementing your in-office collections with a letter-writing service on past due accounts. Some practice management systems can be set up to automate this behind-the-scenes activity. If yours doesnot, check with the collection agency you're using to see if they offer such pre-collection services. It's just one more way to get your money off the books and into the bank.