There is just no getting around the fact that reimbursement and collections is as much a part of running a successful PT private practice as is providing quality physical therapy care for your patients. Nobody goes into physical therapy as a career with the hopes of becoming a bill collector, but getting paid for services rendered is a dilemma for every business across the board and a PT private practice is no different.

Collections and reimbursement is complicated for a PT private practice because you are not always a "cash on the barrel head" type of business. The sources of payment for the care you provide could come from the patient, from Medicare, from the patient's insurance company or a combination of these revenue sources. It is very easy for a small PT private practice to become bogged down in overdue bills and payments to be collected. If that happens, you can face a significant financial problem that could eventually pose a threat to your business.

Therefore, having a good PT private practice collections program in place that works is a must for any manager of a physical therapy practice. Below are five ideas for how to cut out the overhead and streamline the reimbursement and collections process.

Make reimbursement and collections someone's primary job.

One mistake many PT private practice owners or managers make is to not put reimbursement and collections at a high enough priority. Any business person knows that getting paid is as important as making money in the first place. By putting collections in the hands of a staff member that will get the job done right and making that function a high priority in his or her job description, you are sending the message that collections matter.

Collections do not have to be that staff member's only job. However, the person you select should be someone well qualified to deal with customers, funding issues, insurance companies and the complexities of PT practice reimbursement documentation for Medicare and the variety of insurance companies you deal with. This function is not something to hand over to the most recent new hire you have on staff. Put your best talent against this task so you can look to a higher rate of reimbursement in the near future.

Be flexible in payment options.

Your clients may have a variety of ways to pay for their physical therapy, so make it easy for them. Offer them the ability to pay by any of the major credit cards and debit cards. Accept cash or check. Be ready to set up payment by direct debit from the client's checking account or even by echeck or through the use of online payment processors like PayPal. The more ways you can find to accept money for payment, the better.

Require payment upfront.

One of the best ways to be sure you get paid for services rendered is to be paid upfront. Your patients are used to seeing that sign on the reception desk of their medical caregivers that states, "Payment required at time of service." While this does mean you may have to turn away some patients, you can reschedule those clients to come back when they have the resources to pay for their treatment.

Stay on top of changes in how to file for insurance claims.

Insurance companies seem to be constantly changing their forms and procedures for how a PT practice must file a claim for payment. By having one person hold the primary responsibility for collections and reimbursement, that person will be charged with staying on top of changes to processing procedures for all of the insurance companies that are used by your clients. That person can also follow up on slow-paying claims and discover where a claim may have gone idle because of some flaw in the filing process. This can be a huge headache for any PT private practice. So even if you have a dedicated staff member assigned to pushing insurance claims through, a more efficient method is to....

Automate the process.

One of the most proactive ways any PT private practice owner can take control over reimbursements and collections is to implement an automated PT practice documentation program. This kind of program can cut down drastically on the overhead of maintaining patient records and tracking collections as well. The software can stay in step with the changes in filing requirements with Medicare and insurance companies and streamline the entire revenue side of the business. It is a great investment in the future of your practice.

"I like the ease of use and flow of the documentation - much easier than many of the software programs. I would recommend WebPT to anyone." Jim P., PT clinic owner, California 

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