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Practice management knowledge hub

Is your practice running as efficiently as possible? Discover tips and insights that can help streamline your practice management.

Tactics for managing self-pay

As health care costs continue to rise, patients are taking on greater self-pay responsibility – in the form of higher premiums, deductibles and copayments. What this means for medical practices is that a growing portion of their revenue must come from direct payments by patients. And collecting self-pay is often a difficult process that can require significant work, hassle and cost, as well as stress on the practice staff.

Practices understandably hesitate to use aggressive practices to collect from patients because it can damage relationships. Many practices write-off self-pay balances rather than using stronger, more traditional collections tactics.

What’s the best way to approach requesting patient payments? Here are some tips on how to establish a self-pay strategy that makes it easier for patients to pay balances and alleviates some pressure on your staff:

  1. Develop and communicate a self-pay policy. Having a clear policy and clearly communicating it to patients can help nip problems in the bud – and gives your staff backup when they are dealing with patients.
  2. Use automated reminder calls to alert patients to self-pay balances and obligations. Clearly let your patients know what they owe – even prior to a visit – and confirm insurance information to make collection easier.
  3. Make self-pay collection an integral part of your practice workflow. Work with staff on best practices for communicating and collecting patient payments.
  4. Collect what you’re owed on the spot. Collecting co-pays and deductibles immediately, at the end of a visit–and making it as easy as possible for patients to pay–will save you the hassle of collecting later; don’t let money walk out the door.
  5. Consider policies and measures to encourage prompt and full payment. Use incentives, such as discounts for prompt payment, and late payment penalties to motivate patients to pay.
  6. Follow up on self-pay obligations early and often. The likelihood of collecting self-pay decreases over time, so the quicker and more often you remind patients that payments are due, the more likely you are to collect them.
  7. After you’ve done all you can, employ a collection agency. After failing at attempts to discuss the debt with the patient, it’s time to send the bill to a collection agency.
Many practices find that the patient collections workflow functions more smoothly, and can be more successful, with third-party patient communication and collections tools and services. When properly designed and integrated into a practice’s regular routine, these tools and services relieve the staff of excess workload, make the self-pay process more efficient, and help boost revenue and speed of payment.

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