Medical billing and coding is complex and can easily turn into a mess. Even if your physical therapy practice already has a streamlined billing process, there is likely still room for improvement. In addition, billing is evolving because high-deductible plans are more common, meaning patients have greater responsibilities when seeking treatment. Billing speed is key. The longer it takes for patients to pay you, the less likely they are to ever make a payment.
Here are some ways to assess and improve your billing process from start to finish:
Verify insurance on each visit
Collecting insurance information needs to go beyond the first visit. If patients switch insurance providers over the course of their physical therapy treatment, it can complicate your billing process. Verify patients’ insurance at every visit. It prevents hassles further down the road. In addition, this helps clinic staff make sure the patient’s insurance is still active.
Collect copays when patients check in for appointments
This tip may seem like a no-brainer, but many medical offices wait until after patients have been seen to ask for a copay, which may end up unpaid. Copays are a crucial part of a practice’s revenue. If possible, ask for deductibles upfront as well. Some physical therapists have patient portals, and clinic staff can direct patients there to pay their copays in advance.
It’s important to educate clinic staff on the need to collect copayments 100 percent of the time. Some front-office staff members may be better at asking than others, and these employees may be able to provide coaching for their team members.
Tell patients what to expect
By verifying insurance in advance, clinic staff members can tell patients what they will need to pay when they come in for their appointments. Setting the expectation upfront increases the likelihood that patients will be ready to pay. In addition, offering as many payment options as possible boosts the chance of receiving payment at the time of service. Allow patients to pay by cash, check, credit card or patient portal.
Set patient payment expectations upfront.
Assess how you process and send patient statements
Does your practice use aging buckets, such as 0-30 days, 31-60 days and 61-90 days? It may be a good idea to stop printing the number of days on statements, according to Physicians Practice. Once a statement has gone unpaid for more than one month, simply resending the invoice doesn’t guarantee payment. Instead, statements should say “due now” and “past due” to encourage more timely payments.
In addition, your clinic may need to review how often you send statements. Invoices should be mailed at least once per week because this helps reduce denials from late claims. Sending statements out as quickly as possible may speed up your revenue cycle. If these strategies still don’t lead to payment, an employee needs to mail a final notice or call a patient to inform him or her the bill will be sent to collections if payment isn’t received within two weeks.
Set up payment plans
With the emergence of high-deductible health care plans, not all patients can afford to pay their bills upfront. Working with patients to create payment plans is beneficial because your revenue cycle continues to function efficiently without placing a financial burden on patients. For example, paying bills in installments is easier for some patients. However, your clinic should require patients to sign agreements for payment plans. The agreement needs to detail what happens if the patient misses a payment and dictate the length of the plan.
The next part of this series will cover how to improve collections and streamline billing operations with technology.
This article is brought to you by PREFERRED Therapy Providers Inc. PREFERRED is the nation’s leading payor management services network. Our expertise is working with physical, occupational and speech therapy practices – from single clinics to multiple clinic locations.