Three Keys to Writing an Effective Patient Collection Policy
You have a FINANCIAL Policy, but do you have a COLLECTIONS Policy?
As many dental office managers know, it’s really important to have a clear, easy to understand financial policy. It’s really a rule book for doing business with your patients. You want to make sure that all stakeholders (your patients, your staff and everyone else involved) have one unifying document to refer to if there is ever confusion in the billing process. It all starts with a clear financial policy. Because if you don’t have one, your patients will write one for you in the form of uncertainty and miscommunications. You will risk having a different one for every patient that walks in the door.
Financial policies will include both credit and collection policies. Most healthcare providers do have a credit policy, however few have an effective collection policy. Many offices already have a patient financial form or intake form, but what is important is adding something down at the bottom where the patient signs that shows them that they are responsible to pay for services rendered, including any additional cost to collect the balance in the event of default.
Having a collection policy is one of the best things you can do for your business. It will not only help you, but it will help your entire staff remain consistent with your policy for collecting past due accounts. Here are some things to remember while writing your collection policy:
• Keep it simple. Small print, confusing legal-ese and conflicting terms will only confuse the situation. Write in clear language with easy to understand concepts. Your patients will appreciate the clarity and they will appreciate your transparency.
• Talk over the policy with your staff. This not only assures that the policy is clear and easy to understand, but it ensures that your entire staff understands the policy. Confusion and a lack of consistency are the main culprits contributing to problems down the line.
• Tell your patients about it. This seems like a no-brainer, but there is more to it than meets the eye. If you simply make it a part of your process to make specific note of your collection policy to each patient you will greatly increase the chances that you will be paid on time. Confusion often reigns when dealing with insurance companies, copays, partial coverage situations and the many other factors in billing that can make it all too easy for patients to simply claim they “weren’t aware” of an important issue.
By taking the time to circle your collection policy and draw attention to it you will go a long way toward sending the subtle message that you intend to act in a fair, clear and concise manner when it comes to collecting fees for services rendered.
Clear Out the Confusion: Transparency = Efficiency
But it really all comes down to communication. Define in writing the practice’s attitude toward collecting delinquent patient accounts. It’s crucial to make sure that everybody is on board with the decisions on how you’re going to go after these accounts. For example, if only four out of five doctors in your practice support your new written policy and instead they want to write off in all situations, it might be a hard fight and cause increased confusion for front office staff. So make sure that everybody is on board with how you’re going to go about collecting the money.
So remember, make sure your collection policy is clearly defined and maintains a prominent and permanent place in your overall written financial policy.
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