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.

The PT’s Guide to Billing - Regular BannerThe PT’s Guide to Billing - Small Banner
  • 4 Major RCM Killers (and How to Fend Them Off) Image

    articleMay 17, 2017 | 6 min. read

    4 Major RCM Killers (and How to Fend Them Off)

    As the old adage goes, your best offense is a good defense—and no one knows that better than the folks responsible for revenue cycle management (RCM). When it comes to rehab therapy billing, getting dinged with claim denials might seem inevitable. But, taking steps to avoid the following four RCM killers will help you shield your practice from taking a critical hit. 1. Ineffective (or Non-Existent) Payment Policy Money talks , and when we’re talking money, there’s …

  • Founder Letter: Why Clean Claims are Everything Image

    articleJul 7, 2015 | 6 min. read

    Founder Letter: Why Clean Claims are Everything

    When you consider the many complex aspects of running a  private practice , your bottom line might be the biggest source of anxiety. And that’s for good reason; it’s your lifeblood. In an effort to improve  your metrics , you’ve likely examined your workflow, documentation practices, and staffing requirements for any possible improvements. That’s a great start, and I encourage you to stay on top of  self-evaluation  in all of these ways. But have you ever stopped …

  • 4 Keys to Keeping a Steady Cash Flow Image

    articleMay 18, 2016 | 5 min. read

    4 Keys to Keeping a Steady Cash Flow

    As a private practice clinic owner, you’re probably familiar with the cold sweat-inducing struggle to keep a steady cash flow. Claims management muck-ups, inefficient processes, staff issues, and lack of insight into your clinic’s financial health can leave you feeling like you’re riding a revenue rollercoaster. So, whether you’re trying to maximize reimbursements , combat employee theft , or optimize patient payments , these four keys to maintaining a steady cash flow will help you even out …

  • How to Negotiate Payer Contracts (Part 1): Making a Plan Image

    articleJun 23, 2014 | 7 min. read

    How to Negotiate Payer Contracts (Part 1): Making a Plan

    In today’s healthcare payment landscape, every dollar counts—especially in the physical therapy realm, where increasing regulations and decreasing reimbursements seem to be the name of the game. That’s why now, more than ever, it’s crucial that you get the most out of your private payer contracts—and to do that, you’ve got to negotiate. To help you make a case for the rates you deserve, I’ve put together a two-part guide to successfully negotiating payer contracts. Today, I’ll …

  • 9 Questions to Ask a Potential Billing Software Vendor Image

    articleMay 30, 2017 | 7 min. read

    9 Questions to Ask a Potential Billing Software Vendor

    The consumer landscape has changed drastically over the last two decades, and the healthcare space is no exception. Technology has driven much of that change. The rapid pace of innovation has created a technological smorgasbord, meaning consumers can sift through dozens of products until they find the perfect match. This proliferation of options has yielded a fresh set of challenges—including the overwhelming nature of so much choice. Salespeople might be counting on you to make a quick—and …

  • The Pros and Cons of Hiring a Collections Agency Image

    articleMay 8, 2017 | 7 min. read

    The Pros and Cons of Hiring a Collections Agency

    As reimbursements continue to decline, healthcare providers of all disciplines—including PTs, OTs, and SLPs—are feeling the pressure to step up their patient collection efforts . In a perfect world, patients would pay their bills in full and on time (as would payers), but that’s not always the case, which brings up the question: should your practice hire a medical debt collection agency to help you collect past due accounts? Or, would it be better to keep your …

  • Founder Letter: 3 Ways Your Practice is Losing Money Image

    articleMay 5, 2016 | 7 min. read

    Founder Letter: 3 Ways Your Practice is Losing Money

    Much like the patients you treat, your practice can appear healthy on the outside despite significant internal issues. And when those issues are money-related, the consequences can be deadly. If your practice already is in the red, you know you’ve got some pretty serious cash flow problems. But even if you’re in the black every month, you may still be washing dollars down the drain. While there are myriad ways your practice might inadvertently be losing revenue, …

  • Negotiating Payer Contracts (Part 2): Taking Action Image

    articleJun 24, 2014 | 6 min. read

    Negotiating Payer Contracts (Part 2): Taking Action

    You’ve done all of your research and amassed a wealth of supporting data. Now you’re ready to make a super strong case for increasing your reimbursement rates with a particular private payer. (If you missed my post about preparing for payer contract negotiations, you can check it out here .) But this isn’t your average business negotiation; making a deal with a health plan representative is a little more complex than, say, haggling over the price of …

  • 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). …

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