Tony has a strong expertise in the healthcare and managed care/payer arena. He currently manages the workflow of Oncology Business Management, a business trade journal geared towards community oncologists/hematologists.

Using Technology to Improve Patient Fee Collection Rates

Published: Tuesday, Aug 19, 2014

Although the Affordable Care Act (ACA) made accessibility to health insurance easier, consumers are finding themselves shouldering greater out-of-pocket costs in the form of copayments and deductibles for the care that they receive. Physicians are also feeling the need to collect more fees from more of their patients. An article in InformationWeek provides an overview of strategies and tools to help practices get a handle on outstanding bills.

According to Ernst & Young’s report, “The Impact of Third-Party Debt Collection on the US National and State Economies in 2013,” health care related debt is the leading debt category, accounting for nearly 38% of all debt collected by the third-party debt industry. This industry recovers tens of billions of dollars in delinquent consumer debt each year that would otherwise go uncollected. According to the report, student loans amount to 25% of the debt collected, followed by credit cards (10%), with government, retail, telecommunications, utilities, and mortgage comprising less than 10% of debt collected.

On average, physician practices collect 60% of patient copayments at the time of service. These copayments account for 20% of a physician office’s revenue, according to a report from the Medical Group Management Association. Michelle Weiss, president of Weiss Oncology Consulting, says that the best private-practice physicians have a collection rate of 85%, while a fourth only get paid for 90% of their invoices. Many physician offices don’t want to get into the debt collection business and some have suggested that insurance companies would be better at debt collection services than private-practice physicians.

Technology can improve collection rates through practice management software and online payment options. Here are some suggested tools from InformationWeek that can help physician offices spend less time tracking down payments and more time with patients.

  • Set up kiosks in network clinics, which can be used by patients to update contact information, confirm appointments, and settle bills
  • Use appointment reminder software to notify patients of unpaid debts
  • Provide patients with an estimation of total of out-of-pocket costs before treatment
  • Streamline billing practices so office staff can input and confirm patient billing and insurance information in practice management software
  • Add credit card and other online payment options to make payment more convenient for patients
  • Be prepared and familiar with ICD-10 codes to avoid billing errors and ensure prompt payment
  • Analyze debt
  • Take full advantage of billing software capabilities

“9 Ways Healthcare Providers Can Improve Co-Pay Collection,” InformationWeek.

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