Today's blog post comes from WebPT Co-Founder Heidi Jannenga, PT, MPT, ATC/L.

How to Create a Plan to Collect Patient Fees in Your PracticeYesterday, I discussed the importance of not waiving patient fees. So what to do instead? Develop a system or procedure to collect all patient fees (including copays, deductibles, coinsurance, and payment for non-covered services and supplies) at the time of service. Here are steps based off an article from the APTA. 

1.) Establish and enforce written policies and procedures for copay and other fee collection. Make sure you cover everything, including how the front desk will determine fees, what the is process for patient acknowledgement, and ways you’ll collect payment. To facilitate this collection, consider these:

  • Get a credit or debit card transaction machine.
  • Keep sufficient petty cash on hand to make change for those paying cash.
  • Depending on your location, talk with a local bank about installing an ATM in the lobby of your building to encourage cash payments.
  • Provide a mechanism for bill payment on your website.

2.) Educate and train staff. Share, explain, and emphasize the importance of the financial policies with both administrative and clinical staff. Additionally, ensure therapists discuss the issue of out-of-pocket costs with the patient while reviewing the plan of care to help ensure the patient reaches his or her goals. The therapist may need to adjust the frequency and duration of visits, and it’s good to know that up front.

 Furthermore, consider developing a script for the front office staff and having them practice. The script should include techniques and best practices. For example, according to the APTA, most practices find they get the best response by asking "How would you like to pay? Credit card, cash, or check?" rather than by asking "Would you like to pay your copay today?"

 You may even want to consider developing an incentive program for the front office staff based on their collections. Establish goals that you can measure and they can achieve. The increase in collections will more than offset the costs of an incentive program.

 3.) Inform patients. Emphasize the benefits and practicalities:

  • Collection at the time of service is standard business practice for the medical industry.
  • Payment at the time of service prevents amounts owed from accumulating and becoming overwhelming.
  • Fewer bills minimize the cost and hassle.
  • This policy fulfills obligations to payers. Insurance companies require patients to pay copays and deductibles, and they require practices to collect them.

4.) Make sure patients understand the policy.

  • Post your payment policy in a prominent location on the website.
  • Display signage.
  • Explain the policy over the phone when a patient calls for an appointment.
  • During the first visit, have the patient read and sign a form indicating his or her understanding of, and agreement to, the policy.
  • Consider sending a letter of explanation to current patients. At a minimum, explain the new policy in person to each patient. Have each patient acknowledge acceptance in writing.

5.) Set the policy and stick with it. Strive for a time-of-service collection rate of 90% or better.
When patients schedule appointments:

  • Obtain their insurance information.
  • Explain your collection policy.
  • Remind them to bring their insurance cards, identification (e.g., driver's license), and payment to their first visit.

When patients check in for their first appointment:

  • Verify their insurance and payment information.
  • Make a copy of their insurance card. Have the patient read and sign the agreement guaranteeing payment.
  • Establish the method of payment.
  • Give patients the option of keeping a credit or debit card number on file.

At the time of service:

  • Collect the copay and other fees—preferably at the beginning of the visit.
  • Ask for authorization to automatically debit or charge for services that are not known at the end of the visit. You should be able to provide a verbal estimate in most cases.

A few more pointers:

  • File electronic claims within 24 hours of the visit.
  • Collect past-due accounts in the office. Don't wait and send a bill. Payment plans should be the exception and not the rule. Save them for cases of true hardship, and make sure you have specific policies and procedures governing their use. 

This may seem like a lot to take in, but it is business critical. Implement these steps and eliminate risking your practice or ruining your business. Most importantly, implement these steps to further prove your worth. Always remember: you deserve to get paid; your services are worth it.

Billing - Regular BannerBilling - Small Banner
  • Coding Faux Pas: 5 Common Rehab Therapy Billing Mistakes Image

    articleMay 9, 2017 | 7 min. read

    Coding Faux Pas: 5 Common Rehab Therapy Billing Mistakes

    As the old saying goes, “To err is human.” But when human error stands between you and timely reimbursements, it’s difficult to remain philosophical. From missing GP modifiers to miscalculated coding units, here are five common billing mistakes that keep rehab therapists from getting paid. 1. Omitted Modifiers Modifiers: Easily applied; even more easily overlooked. Therapy modifiers—including GP, GO, and GN—specify to the payer what kind of therapy service was provided (e.g., physical, occupational, or speech therapy). …

  • What to Look for in a PT Biller Image

    articleJul 28, 2015 | 4 min. read

    What to Look for in a PT Biller

    In the words of American rock legend Tom Petty, “Good love is hard to find.” While I agree wholeheartedly with Mr. Petty’s wisdom, I think some rehab therapy practice owners might say good employees are even harder to find. And that certainly applies in the billing department. After all, your clinic’s billing operation is crucial to its financial well-being. One bad hire could mean the difference between your clinic achieving private practice rockstardom and hitting rock bottom. …

  • Down with Denials! 5 Claim Fixes to Make Sure Your PT Clinic Gets Paid Image

    webinarApr 19, 2017

    Down with Denials! 5 Claim Fixes to Make Sure Your PT Clinic Gets Paid

    One denied claim might not sound off your billing alarm bells—but in reality, it should. That’s because—as with faulty plumbing—one leak often indicates a much larger issue. And all too often, rehab therapy practices fail to act quickly enough—and soon find themselves wading in a flood of lost revenue. But there are simple, proven, and affordable ways to not only plug your billing holes, but also reinforce your whole system so you’re less likely to bust a …

  • PT Billing Tips from the Trenches Image

    articleMay 22, 2017 | 6 min. read

    PT Billing Tips from the Trenches

    It’s hard out here for a biller—between dodging denials, hunting past-due balances, and navigating the ever-changing compliance climate, keeping a rehab therapy practice’s billing processes in tip-top shape is no simple feat. The heat is definitely on when a good portion of your company’s cash flow falls squarely on your shoulders—but you don’t have to go it alone. In fact, we’ve rounded up several therapy billing gurus who were happy to lend their expertise and spill some …

  • The Physical Therapist's Guide to Contract Negotiation Image

    downloadSep 15, 2016

    The Physical Therapist's Guide to Contract Negotiation

    As a PT, you put your heart and soul into your work. So, it’s only fair that you get paid what you deserve. Unfortunately, payers don’t often see it that way, which means that in order to get what you want out of your private payer contracts, you’ve got to negotiate. And to do so successfully, you need to know how to play ball. Enter your email address below, and we’ll send your free guide.

  • Why RCM is a Practice-Wide Endeavor Image

    articleJun 20, 2016 | 5 min. read

    Why RCM is a Practice-Wide Endeavor

    If you think revenue cycle management (RCM) only involves billing your patients, then Houston, we have a problem. As indicated in this Greenway Health resource, your RCM strategy should account for the manner in which your practice generates, captures, and collects revenue—and that means getting your whole crew on board with adopting optimal RCM practices. But before you can launch a successful RCM strategy, you should perform a pre-check. Here are a few questions to ask yourself …

  • Eligibility Verification and Your Front Office Image

    articleJul 22, 2015 | 4 min. read

    Eligibility Verification and Your Front Office

    The success or failure of each patient claim begins and ends in the front office. Why? Patient insurance  eligibility verification  is the first—and perhaps most critical—step in the billing process. That means your front office has to be on the ball to obtain and accurately record all eligibility information. Your staff is responsible for determining each patient’s insurance eligibility, including: coinsurance or copay, deductible, benefits cap, where to send the claim, whether the payer requires specialized forms …

  • Clear Course for Cash: 5 Simple Ways to Optimize Your PT Billing Workflow Image

    webinarJul 6, 2015

    Clear Course for Cash: 5 Simple Ways to Optimize Your PT Billing Workflow

    Is your current billing workflow flooding your clinic with claim delays, rejections, and/or underpayments? Don’t try to bail yourself out with a sieve. Instead, stop taking on water entirely by patching the holes in your billing processes. But how, you ask? Never fear; we have the answers you need to shore up your ship—for good. Tune in to this month’s webinar, where hosts Heidi Jannenga and Charlotte Bohnett will show you how to set your billing workflow …

  • Suppressing Sticker Shock: How to Handle Your Patients’ High-Deductible Health Plans Image

    webinarFeb 23, 2017

    Suppressing Sticker Shock: How to Handle Your Patients’ High-Deductible Health Plans

    Copayments, coinsurances, unresolved balances—oh my! Any one of these can cause headaches for healthcare providers, but as healthcare reform efforts shift more and more financial burden to insurance beneficiaries, today’s practitioners are increasingly facing all three. And these challenges are not only hurting their patient acquisition and retention rates, but also their bottom lines. Tired of spending time verifying benefits only to lose those patients to copay sticker shock? Stuck in a constant cycle of pursuing past-due …

Achieve greatness in practice with the ultimate EMR for PTs, OTs, and SLPs.