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Taking care of business

Streamlining Patient Collections

Jul 05 2016

Collecting overdue payments from your patients who haven't settled their overdue accounts is a frustrating part of running a medical practice. P.J. Cloud-Moulds has worked with physicians since 2003 through her business, Turnaround Medical AR Recovery. It can be surprising for them to realize they are owed money from late patient payments.

“People feel other people are like themselves,” Cloud-Moulds says in an email to Office Depot. “They end up shocked and letdown when patients do not pay their balances. They do not understand that some people are professional debtors and are nothing like the front office staff who ‘trusted’ the patient who said, ‘My wallet is in the car — just bill me and I’ll pay you right away.’”

How can you get the money you are owed out of that missing wallet and into your medical practice where it belongs — in a calm, respectful way?

1. Practice Consistent Follow Up

It’s important to have a specific plan in place for following up on accounts. Cloud-Moulds recommends sending three statements documenting the amount due. If that doesn’t yield a payment, she tells clients to send a letter asking for payment within 15 days, or else the account will be turned over to a collection agency. “We have found that 75% of patients either reach out to us and either pay immediately or set up a payment plan,” Cloud-Moulds writes in a story for Physician’s Practice.

2. Know Your Collection Agency

Once you’ve turned a patient account over to a collection agency, know who's handling your business, how they will collect the money, and what percentage of the collections the agency keeps for itself. “This is still your money — watch it like a hawk!” Cloud-Moulds writes in Physicians Practice.

3. Payment Plans Can Work

For patients who can pay off their bills slowly but consistently, work with them so they can pay something regularly. And once accounts are paid off in full, be sure to send an “All Debt Paid” letter to patients, she writes in Physicians Practice. The patient can send the note to a credit report agency and it will be noted on the patient’s credit history report.

Above all, having a system in place means money can come into your business as efficiently as possible. “Process and solid procedure with extreme transparency and accountability is key,” says Cloud-Moulds. “So is knowing where the cash is, knowing who touches it, and having more than one person in the practice knowing where the money is."

Cheryl Alkon is a freelance writer and researcher who has covered health, medicine and healthcare extensively. She has written for a variety of publications, including USA Today, The New York Times, Prevention.com, More, Women’s Day, ENT Today, and Oncology Business Management. She is the author of “Balancing Pregnancy With Pre-Existing Diabetes: Healthy Mom, Healthy Baby.” Find her at CherylAlkon.com.

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