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3 technologies that improve patient collections

By Cheryl Toth, MBA  bio

“Don’t worry, you don’t need to pay us today…we’ll bill you after insurance pays.”

This is music to patients’ ears. It means they can receive services, treatments, and/or tests in your office, and leave without paying for them. Months later when the bill arrives, it will be easy for them to set it aside. Because (probably) no one is going to call and ask them to pay it anytime soon. Maybe ever.

“We bill after insurance pays” has been a staff mantra for decades. But with deductibles soaring and the predicted cash flow uncertainties post-ICD-10, it’s never been more prudent to move your practice to an up-front, time of service collection model.

Here are three technologies that make patient collections easier.

1. Payor cost estimators. A primary reason for delayed collections procedures has been the opaque nature of payor rules and benefit plans. Let’s face it: If staff aren’t sure about the amount they can collect, they don’t ask.

Cost estimators are free, payor-provided technology tools that provide access to real-time, patient copay and deductible data at the point of service. Enter CPT codes online, and the amount the practice can collect from the patient is delivered in seconds. Data are specific to the patient’s insurance-plan benefits and provide the exact amount that can be collected in the office. Staff can feel confident asking for payment before the patient leaves your office. And this is especially helpful to the surgical counselor who is collecting pre-surgical deposits; no more manual calculations on a worksheet.

Many insurance plans offer cost estimators on their websites. Others deliver the data through statewide or regional portals such as Availity. Call payors to learn about options.

2. Online bill pay. Americans love the convenience of paying bills online. 46% of those with Internet access pay their bills online or through a banking website.[i] Cash in on this trend. If your practice management system vendor offers a patient portal, use its online payment feature. Alternatively, solutions from TransFirst or PayPal are easy to implement and easy to use.

3. Automatic, recurring payments. How do you pay for Netflix or Pandora every month? Or your gym membership? Recurring payments. They are simple, fast, and easy. Your practice can offer the same option to patients, giving them a convenient way to pay off their bill in installments, and requiring only a one-time setup and virtually no ongoing management by staff. TransFirst and PayPal both offer an automatic, recurring bill-pay feature. Some patient portals do, too.

After you’ve launched these new technology options, don’t keep them a secret – a mistake we see many practices make. Tell the entire practice, from the front desk to the clinic. Post promotional copy on your website. Make fliers or postcards for the front desk, and posters for the exam rooms. (VistaPrint makes this easy and inexpensive – no graphic designer needed.) Add information to your ‘on hold’ message. And make sure the front desk, billing office, and surgical counselors are fully trained to use the tools to collect payments.

Why spend real dollars on staff salaries, paper, and postage only to wait 60 or 90 days or more for your money? Move your patient collections up front, and automate using these convenient and cost effective technology tools.

¹ March 25, 2013 Western Union Payments Money Mindset Index,

Cheryl Toth, MBA is a senior consultant, writer, and digital media professional with KarenZupko & Associates,

The above information is shared by a guest contributor and does not necessarily reflect the views of Medical Office Manager.











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