6 strategies for better billing and collections

It’s that time of year again when everyone is planning ways to make the upcoming year their best year yet. If your practice is like most other practices, then one area where you could use some work is billing and collections.

Here are six resolutions that can improve your billing and collections in the new year.

Resolve to educate your patients.

Insurance is complex and is getting more so. Physicians and their staff are now spending a lot of time on continuing education when it comes to billing. But patients could use a bit of schooling, too. Copays, deductibles, and other medical billing terminology can be a bit of a mystery to most people.

Consider printing a simple flyer that explains billing basics that can apply to any insurance plan. Direct patients toward the customer service number on the back of their insurance cards for more detailed questions.

Educating patients on where to get more information can also help improve patient relationships. “Patients often blame the doctor when billing problems are really between patients and their insurance provider,” says Karen Lake, healthcare consultant with the firm Pearce, Bevill, Leesburg, Moore.

Resolve to talk to your patients in an effective way.

Make sure your staff knows how to communicate with patients about their bills. Never ask patients whether they want to pay their bill now. Instead, offer a choice of two options for paying. Instead, assume that they’re going to pay and ask them if they prefer to pay by check or credit card. Lake says this gentle nudging has worked wonders with her clients.

Resolve to stay on top of claims.

This is one of the most important things you can do to improve your bottom line, says Tammie Olson manager of coding and compliance at Management Resource Group, a firm offering financial management and support services for the healthcare community. File claims on time, daily if possible, and have a routine system for checking open claims. Be sure to file amended claims when necessary and never miss a resubmission deadline.

Resolve to verify insurance.

Do this on the phone before and at every visit, Olson says. Also, when you verify insurance, be sure to also confirm the patient’s contact information. People change jobs, switch email accounts, ditch landlines and move across town but don’t always remember to notify their physicians. Regardless of how you send bills, be sure to avoid sending statements to the wrong address. Be sure you have a way to follow-up if patients don’t pay to avoid payment delays.

Resolve to review your contracts.

Take a little time at the first of the year to review your contracts with payers. Make sure you are aware of any changes from the prior year, especially if those changes require a change in workflow, process or staff (re)training. Note all filing deadlines for the year ahead.  This is also a good time to make a chart of when your contracts come due, so you can plan ahead for any renegotiations.

Resolve to designate a go-to person for billing.

Billing is complex, to say the least. Make sure you have one person on your staff who is thoroughly trained and experienced in all things billing. Refer any staff and patient questions or issues to this person. Spend the time and money training your go-to person, too, as your revenue depends on her capabilities. It’s also wise to cross-train in case your billing pro has to miss work for a lengthy period.

If your billings and collections didn’t live up to expectations last year, commit to these resolutions for a more profitable new year. And remember, just like a goal to lose weight, these resolutions will require commitment and periodic check-ins throughout the year to make sure they stick.