Without any intention to sound like a broken record... there is yet more data indicating how critical it is for medical practices to have a solid patient collection process in place. A new survey indicates that health savings accounts are growing in popularity. Both the number of accounts and the amount of money in those accounts are growing at a significant rate. A recent study from Celent, a consulting company that works with banks, showed that the number of HSAs increased 46.1 percent between January 2008 and January 2009, and the money in HAS accounts grew by 62.6 percent. HSA accounts have an average account balance of $1,561. This number is likely significantly understated because most banks do not consistently purge inactive, zero-balance accounts.
What does this mean for medical practices? It means that they need have a solid set of tools, processes and policies in place for collecting the portion of their income that is the patient's responsibility. Some of the key elements of a world-class patient collections process are:
- A clearly communicated patient collection policy that is consistently communicated to patients before they see the doctor;
- An automated insurance verification tool that allows the front-desk to easily verify coverage and confirms the key parameters of the coverage (deductible, co-insurance percentage, and the amount of the deductible met for the current year);
- An easily used tool that allows the front-desk to inform the patient before he leaves the office how much he will likely owe after the claim is adjudicated. This allows patient to pay their portion of the healthcare bill before they ever leave the office;
- Quick claim submission and follow-up so that patients that have not paid their bill before leaving the office can be sent a patient statement as quickly as possible after the date of service;
- Well designed patient statements that eliminate many of the issues that cause patients to treat bills from physicians differently than they treat credit card or utility bills;
- Payment processing tools that automate and monitor payment plans; and
- A system for ranking patient balances for follow-up effort based upon expected collections - not simply on the magnitude of the patient balance.
If you medical practices has not invested in developing a world-class patient collection process then you are likely losing at least 10% of your practice's potential revenue.