22 Dec Bridging the Gap Between Money and Medicine

We had the great opportunity to interview Elizabeth Woodcock, the founder and principal of Woodcock & Associates, about how to make your front staff feel more comfortable collecting at the point of service. Below is some of the advice she shared with us.

 

Years ago, most believed that money and medicine simply didn’t mix. Employees in the practice were told to just wait for the claim to be processed and eventually the business office would take care of it.

Well, the healthcare world is different now; in order for a practice to survive, the business aspects of a practice must be front and center. With patients today having higher deductible health insurance plans and a greater portion of the balance due on services provided coming directly from your patients’ pocketbooks, it is now more important than ever to collect payments from patients at the point of service.

But, how do we bridge that gap between money and medicine?

Here are some tips that can help your practice begin to close that gap and help your staff feel more comfortable collecting at the point of service.

Tip #1: Education. We can’t stress enough how important education on front-end revenue cycle management is. This is a critical piece to the success of your practice and absolutely needs to be one of your main focuses. If you are going to change the “waiting game” mentality on patient financial accountability, then education is imperative. This continues to be a pitfall for many practices. Understanding your practice’s collection processes and policies allows your staff to be more confident when it comes to payment collection from patients. This confidence often nets improved patient collections at the point of service, and creates a more positive patient experience. Who doesn’t want that?

Tip #2: Technology. With the introduction of practice management systems, payment collection has been more automated and simplified in recent years. The addition of tools such as payment kiosks or the use of tablets to allow the collection of payments has helped to create a more seamless experience for the patient. Having a credit card on file is also a great way to ensure payment collection, but can be a challenge if the patient doesn’t feel comfortable with it. One way to mitigate this issue is to have the patient sign a disclaimer that goes on file with their card saying you will only collect payment for what is due at the point of service. Investing in technology for your practice may seem expensive upfront, but helps to ensure your overall success in the long run.

Tip #3: Connect with Community. This final tip is very much related to overall education, but it is worth mentioning. As we discussed above, the messaging you are receiving about patient financial accountability is confusing and hindering practices from collecting from patients at the point of service. Part of that staff education is understanding the messaging that is being received not only by your practice, but with other providers in the community. You need to make sure you are all receiving a unified message from benefit administrators on patient financial accountability because you and your patients are all part of the same community. Reach out to them. Talk to them. Make sure you have a united front as a community that cares deeply about its patients.

The current healthcare environment of rising costs and lower reimbursement unfortunately means patients are more responsible than ever in contributing to the cost of their care. But, this increased concentration on point of service collections doesn’t have to be a difficult shift in mindset for your staff. It should be viewed as an opportunity for them to embrace the change that is going to be a critical piece in the success of the practice overall. Together, you can begin to bridge the gap between money and medicine.

 

Elizabeth Woodcock is the founder and principal of Woodcock & Associates, having focused on medical group operations and revenue cycle management for more than 25 years. The author or co-author of 17 books, including the best-selling Physician Billing Process: Avoiding Potholes in the Road to Getting Paid, she is a nationally recognized practice management speaker and trainer. Elizabeth is a Fellow in the American College of Medical Practice Executives and a Certified Professional Coder. In addition to a Bachelor of Arts from Duke University, she completed a Master of Business Administration in healthcare management from The Wharton School of Business of the University of Pennsylvania.

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