Health care providers, including those providing much needed ABA services, play a vital and meaningful role in our society.
However, in order to provide the needed care to patients, clinics must be able to operate effectively. That means obtaining the proper revenue to keep themselves afloat.
Unfortunately, current healthcare reform and legislation have created a fickle economic environment for those in the healthcare industry. Patients are ending up with higher insurance copays and deductibles, thus owning a larger share of healthcare costs.
As payment failure is more likely to occur with an individual in comparison to an insurance agency, ABA clinics must develop thorough patient collections systems to ensure all monies are being properly collected. The best practices for patient collections involves the entire office, from front desk clerks to the billing department and so forth.
At WebABA we recognize that the success of your practice is intrinsically dependent on your revenue. We want to make sure you can collect so that you may have a long and successful journey. That’s why we would like to offer 8 best practices for the patient collections process.
- Your team is part of the solution.
The first step you will want to take in developing a solid patient collections process is to ensure that your employees are properly trained and have a thorough understanding of your payment policies. Your billing department will assumingly be playing the lead role in collections, so you should have them train the front office staff on how to properly explain costs and services to patients.
There should also be accountability measures set so that employees know what is expected and recognize the consequences of failing to meet those standards.
If your billing department needs additional assistance, an online ABA billing service like WebABA can prove to be a valuable partner in increasing collections.
- Take steps before the patient even visits.
Before the patient even walks in through your clinic’s doors, you should already have gathered some valuable information such as the patient’s insurance information, as well as their current contact information.
You should also evaluate their insurance coverage to ensure that it covers your services, as well as to check for copay specifics, in case you need to inform the patient of their financial responsibility.
Having all this information beforehand will also help to make the collections process run smoother; whether collecting from the insurer or the individual.
Your clinic can make it easier for patients by providing them online tools to submit this information. Your website should have an adequate page or widget that will allow you to collect the information electronically.
- Clear and straightforward communication is key.
Setting a clear policy and effectively communicating it to the patient at first contact will help to set the standard. Being as (reasonably) detailed as possible will help the patient understand the medical services they are receiving and the related costs of the treatment.
Your policy should also be written out so that patients will have a clear understanding that all payment is expected at the time of services. If there are any issues with finances, be willing to work through any concerns.
Employee training will also be a valuable asset at this point as they should be able to clearly communicate payment policies to patients. With all staff effectively able to convey the payment expectations at various appropriate contact points, the patient will have a greater likelihood of following through with payment.
- Consider financing options and payment plans.
ABA therapy is still a burgeoning service and not all insurances treat it equally. Potential families and patients might have difficulty covering payments in their entirety. Providing financing options can be valuable to developing a stronger client base and improving your clinic’s reputation.
As many families will want to continue seeking your services for some time, it will be in their own best interest to pay back balances in a timely manner, and utilizing payment plans can help them do just that.
Remember that you will need to track the accounts of those utilizing a financing option, and staff will need to be able to communicate these options, as well as effectively collect balances.
Additional measures to take if you decide to offer financing options/payment plans include:
- Agreements should be documented and signed by the responsible party.
- Any late fees that will be included in a “Past Due” bill should also be specifically mentioned in the agreement.
- Do not extend payment plans longer than a few months.
- Accept multiple forms of payment.
Patients appreciate the convenience of having the option to pay through multiple forms, whether cash, check, or credit/debit cards. Not only will accepting various form of payment improve customer satisfaction, it’ll likely have an economic benefit to your clinic by allowing you to collect more frequently and streamlining the billing process.
Alongside accepting multiple forms of payment, your ABA therapy service can also accept payments through a number of avenues including:
- Payments over the phone
- Payments through an online system (i.e. website or patient portal)
- Automated payment plans
- Point of sale payments
Consider that you will need to train your billing team to track online payments and front desk clerks who may be accepting over-the-phone payments.
- Outstanding balances and patient statements.
Ideally, you are collecting balances immediately and avoiding having to create patient statements and collecting outstanding balances – but it happens.
When creating patient statements, avoid including aging buckets on the statement as patients may interpret that as still “having time” to pay. You should also keep statements straightforward by simply stating “Due Now” or “Past Due”.
If you aren’t able to collect with a statement, then attempt to collect when a patient schedules to make their next appointment. If they are unwilling to pay then offer them a final notice of the delinquency of their balance and send it to collections.
- Consider using a “Credit Card on File” program.
As an ABA therapy provider, you will like have plenty of clients who are in need of recurring treatments. A “Credit Card on File” program can save you the time and effort of having to consistently do follow-ups with patients.
These programs use third-party vendors to maintain the patient’s encrypted credit-card information and to withdraw payments, usually on a recurring cycle.
If your clinic decides to utilize this option make sure you have created a policy that meets appropriate state and federal guidelines. You should also have payor permission before retaining their credit card information.
- When follow-up is required.
Hopefully, the vast majority of your accounts are paying at each session or in a timely manner. You will, however, have the occasional patient who will not. In these scenarios, frequent follow-up is going to be your best tactic to collect on outstanding balances.
Understandably, your billing department may be swamped with a variety of other tasks and priorities, but sometimes the only way to collect on past due bills is simply to initiate phone contact. Your team should be proactive in this approach and create a script for staff members to follow to help with collections. Once again, training is vital, and front desk personnel who are familiar with discussing payment options will go a long way in helping your office collect.
As the owner of an ABA therapy practice, you should also consider analyzing the collections follow-up process and determine the system’s weaknesses. By pinpointing where the failure to collect is at, you can resolve the issue much easier.
If you aren’t sure how to begin the follow-up process, consider the following tips:
- Begin by sending a billing statement
- Send a reminder as needed
- Contact patient as needed to secure payment or device a timetable for repayment
- Send an additional letter to attempt to rectify the issues
- Final call
- Final reminder of payment delinquency
- Turn account over to collection agency
If all staff members are united in obtaining past due monies, then the patient collections process can run much more effectively.
Let WebABA streamline your billing process.
At WebABA, we understand the effort that it takes to run a successful ABA practice. We also recognize how vital billing and practice management software can be to your success.
That’s why we offer a number of services that can help you to increase your patient load, receive payment for your claims, and do what you do best – provide meaningful, quality ABA therapy services.
Contact us today at (805) 277-3392 to find out more about our services and how we can help to increase the revenue of your ABA therapy clinic.