Making a call to a patient to attempt to collect an overdue balance can be difficult and stressful, but it does not have to be. If a billing representative approaches a collection call in the same way they would approach every other conversation they have with patients, the practice will experience an increase in revenue while maintaining a great patient relationships.
Here are eight easy steps to follow for a successful patient collection call.
1. Identify the Guarantor:
This step serves two very important purposes at the beginning of the call. First, providing patient health information to the wrong person constitutes a HIPAA violation. Before even identifying the practice it is very important to confirm the correct person is on the line.
Second, it can establish a feeling for the call. Start the call the right way by asking the right question. The right question is not: "Hello, is this Jonathan Smith?" John's friends don't call him by his full name, so he is going to assume right away that this is not a call he wants to answer.
Instead, try this: "Hello, John?" A simple greeting is more comfortable and he is much more likely to continue the conversation. Let him confirm that he is John and follow up with, "Hello, Mr. Smith." This allows the representative to confirm that he is Jonathan Smith and to continue with the call, and prevents him from hanging up the phone.
2. Identify Yourself & Your Employer:
Once you have identified the patient, let them know where you are calling from. Remember that patients often may not recognize the corporate name for the healthcare organization, but they will remember their doctor's name. It is important for the patient to recognize where the call is coming from, if they don't know who you are there is a higher chance they will get confused or defensive and that makes the call much more difficult. It should go something like this:
3. Request Payment in Full & Offer Methods of Payment
If the patient sounds impatient or indicates they are in a hurry, it is acceptable to jump right to this part of the call. However, this can often be the most difficult part. Try starting the conversation by confirming demographic information and asking about any additional payer assistance that might be available to help with their outstanding balance.
Always ask for payment in full first, but if needed you can discuss a payment plan with them that will be mutual acceptable. Be sure to offer all the various forms of payment accepted at the office, to make it as convenient as possible for them to pay.
4. Psychological Pause
Once you have requested the balance in full, remain quiet and allow the patient to tell you how they will or why they will not pay the bill. Asking for money can be uncomfortable, but do not try to fill the silence by continuing to talk. Give the patient a chance to pay you in full, or to explain why they cannot. It is easier to work with a patient when their objection or excuse is clear.
5. Determine the Problem
If the patient offers an objection or an excuse, it is now the representative's responsibility to determine the root of the issue. A patient who complains that they have health insurance and the practice should not be offering services that are not generally covered, may actually have received a new marketplace plan with a patient responsibility structure they do not understand. Working to the core of the issue and answering any questions the patient has will help them to take responsibility for the bill, and to eventually pay it.
6. Find the Solution
Once the real issue behind the patient's inability or unwillingness to take care of their outstanding balance is determined, the representative now needs to work with the patient to establish a payment plan. Plans may need to be built around the patient's specific situation, but working with them one on one will help them to feel that the practice cares for them, and that report can lead to payment. In attempting to satisfy the patient be careful not enter into an agreement that is not acceptable under your practice's financial policy.
7. Close the Arrangement
Once an agreement has been reached confirm all the details, including the implications of a failure to uphold it. Steps to be taken in the event of nonpayment should be outlined in the practice's financial policy. Be sure to specifically provide all time limits and to fully explain any caveats and restrictions.
8. Update your Records
Record all details of the payment arrangement, including any details given by the patient regarding their inability to pay. Having this information available can help with future conversations. If the practice software has the option, set a notification for the dates on which payments are due in order to ensure the patient is adhering to the arrangement. Payment plans are most successful if they are monitored and enforced.
Putting these steps to use in your practice can help increase revenue while maintaining a good relationship with your patients. Collecting money does not have to be difficult, and the call can create an opportunity to connect with their patient. Understanding their situation and showing a willingness to work with them will improve their experience with your healthcare organization and will keep them coming back.
Click here to request a PDF reference guide of these steps and start implementing them in your office today!
Written by Ali Bechtel, Public Relations Coordinator
This information is not to be construed as legal advice. Legal advice must be tailored to the specific circumstances of each case. Although we attempt to provide up-to-date information, laws and regulations often change. We make no claims, promises, or guarantees about the accuracy or completeness of this document. For legal advice, please consult an attorney.