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10 strategies to increase doctor's office cash flow

April 26, 2018

eMEDIX Reimbursement Solutions allows providers to process claims in real time, delivering one of the fastest turnaround times in the industry.

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According to the 6th annual trends report by Becker’s Healthcare, the average physician practice writes off over $30,000 in unpaid medical bills each year. Even more surprising is that 28% of physician practices have no idea how much they are or should be writing off. With the changes and challenges of healthcare reimbursement, ignoring these figures is no longer an option and instead is the difference between staying in business or independent.

To be able to keep your practice running efficiently and successfully, one must adapt to the changes and start getting creative to increase payments and decrease A/R time. You can increase your doctor’s office cash flow.

Here are 10 strategies to help your practice increase cash flow, get paid faster, and stay independent.

1. Have an efficient check in and check out process

Not only should you take the co-pay at the time of your healthcare service, but make it an easy and efficient process. Offer many ways for your patients to pay: minimally cash, check, and credit card payments.

Collect the co-pay when your patient checks in and upon checkout, make sure that they are aware that there might be a statement on the way with any additional charges that their insurance plan does not cover. Make it a routine and normal part of each patient’s visit.

2. Estimate deductibles when possible

The more that you can take a payment at the time of service, the better. In fact, there is almost no other merchant that would let the consumer leave without taking the payment. Have you ever gone to the grocery store and left with your eggs, milk, and bread without paying and instead expecting an invoice? It just doesn’t happen.

While estimating a deductible is very difficult without a fully functional reimbursements solution such as eMEDIX, make every attempt to estimate these costs, communicate them effectively to your patients, and collect payment at time of service—especially with out-of-pocket patient expenses going up over 230% in the last 10 years, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation.

3. Send statements to increase doctor's office cash flow

When you cannot estimate the deductible, sending out statements is a must. With the increase in out-of-pocket expenses, physicians can no longer rely on insurance companies as the main payer and now must work directly with patients on collecting outstanding bills.

Getting used to sending out statements on a monthly, bi-monthly, or even weekly basis is now necessary and should be considered the norm.

4. Offer electronic statements

Postage increases all the time and the loaded cost of a statement (overhead, postage, paper, printing, etc.) is now estimated at almost $3 each. The MGMA reports that in most cases, three statements need to be mailed prior to receiving a payment, so you are paying an average of $9 to collect money that is owed to you.

Not only this, but by sending a statement by mail, you are adding unnecessary days to your A/R cycle. Emails are more than 60% cheaper than mailing physical statements and are sent and received in a matter of minutes, not days.

5. Increase practice cash flow with consistent communication

With the current economic status of many of your patients, your bill will be one of many that is added to the pile. Worse, patients do not perceive health care as a debt, so your bill will often be in competition with the phone or cable bill.

To win this battle, you'll need to stay at the top of your patient’s mind. Send out routine emails, or even better, offer a HIPPA-compliant patient portal—like the one available for the CGM APRIMA EHR—that offers secure messaging, research of historical statements, and current balances.

6. Offer multiple payment options

A 2015 survey from Consumer Healthcare Payments found that 70% of healthcare consumers would like the ease and convenience of paying their bill online, yet only 2% of doctor’s offices provide this solution.

This is a huge disconnect and by offering a solution to pay online, you will be more competitive with the other merchants that are sending bills to your patients and allow them to click and pay 24/7.

For example, how many times have you received a bill in the mail with the intention to pay it, but set it aside because you were busy or didn’t have your checkbook handy only to get a second statement one month later?

Electronic payments are convenient and easy for most patients, and offering other options such as paying in person, by phone, or by mail is important for those 30% that are not looking for an online payment method.

Ultimately, giving your patients options will not only increase your doctor's office cash flow, but will also increase patient satisfaction.

7. Offer payment plans to increase doctor’s office cash flow

In those situations when you cannot estimate out of pocket expenses and the bill is higher than expected, set up a plan for your patients to pay an automatic payment each month until the debt is no longer outstanding.

Not only will this reduce the amount of statements being mailed to collect payment, but you will also receive an automatic payment each month.

8. Keep a credit card on file

As part of your check out process, ask for a credit authorization form from your patient so that their credit card information can be stored in your system. This will allow for easy future payments during your check-in and check-out process.

9. Set up auto-pay

In addition to keeping a card on file, have your patients authorize a reasonable amount to be automatically charged to this card in the event of an outstanding balance. Not only will this reduce A/R time by 100%, but it will be very convenient and easy for your patient as well.

10. Have a trusted partner to streamline this process

This sounds like a lot of work, so offload some of the pressure and find a trusted partner to help with all the above.

Look at partners such as BillFlash and Easy Pay who offer a suite of services that enabling both print-and-mail and e-bill statement solutions, text notifications, as well as several payment options, including online, in-office, and by phone. These services typically offer customization that allows practices to set up card-on-file, auto-pay, and even payment plan options for your patients.

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