To ensure successful collections in a medical practice, front desk staff must be involved. As a first point of contact for patients, front desk staff should understand insurance concepts, and be able to explain clearly your practice’s financial policies and patients’ financial responsibility. I don’t recommend that front desk staff do all the heavy lifting, however.

For example, few medical practices have the wherewithal to estimate patient balances without sophisticated technology. Whether it is applying the unpaid deductible to a typical office visit charge, or understanding out-of-network benefits for an in-office procedure, the busy front desk staff rarely are able to provide a fast answer to, “What will I owe today?” (if the patient dares to ask).

One technology option that is available at minimal or no cost is the ability to keep a patient’s credit or debit card on file, to charge the balance owed after insurance has paid. Although an estimate of the amount due by the patient is always helpful to mentally prepare the patient, sometimes it just isn’t possible to provide this, even at the checkout desk.

The hub around which credit card on file works is the Payment Gateway Software that replaces your credit card machine with a small swiper, and allows you to securely store the patient’s credit card in a third-party offsite server. The credit card information is encrypted and stored on the web (PCI-compliant), and can be retrieved to charge the patient for post-insurance claim balances, as well as recurring payments such a payment plan.