The Case for Generating Weekly Patient Statements
Collecting patient-owed balances can be one of the most time consuming and expensive ventures for your practice. Maintaining an in-house billing department accounts for a large chunk of your operating expenses. This is why it is critical for you to maximize your efforts to reduce your receivables, collect outstanding balances and retain the services of an outside billing company.
A source of great debate among medical billers is how to handle patient statements. There are several thought processes regarding a number of issues surrounding statements. Should you include date buckets and dunning messages and should you send a statement before the insurance has processed the claims? Among all these is the question of how often you should send out statements to patients. Let’s take a look at this question in more detail.
How Often Should You Generate Patient Statements?
Ideally, patient statements should be sent weekly. If statements are only sent out on a monthly basis, then you are looking at a glut of payments coming in around the same time. Billers and posters are left scrambling to post a large number of payments quickly while still having to complete all of their other responsibilities. This is not an ideal situation and sets up a scenario for increased posting errors.
By dividing up your patient base into 4 groups and sending out statements once a week on a 30-day cycle, you spread your payments a bit more evenly throughout the course of the month. This allows for a continuous, even revenue flow each month and your posters’ workload remains more consistent as a result.
The patient base can be divided into groups by either aging buckets or in alphabetical groups. Groups can also be devised using primary insurance carriers as a parameter, but this makes it much more difficult to create four even-sized groupings.
Alphabetically is a good choice and if your billers’ responsibilities are also divided up into alpha sections; then you will only have a few billers each week who experience a heavier workload instead of the whole staff experiencing that at the same time.
Reduce the Need for Statements
Each and every member of your office staff is part of the billing department. Everyone has a part to play in successfully submitting claims, collecting monies owed and reducing outstanding revenue totals.
From the first phone call to your office, the collection wheel must start rolling. Schedulers should be gathering as much information as possible up front and accurately entering that data into the system.
Next, staff should be verifying benefits and eligibility before the patient walks in the door. Information such as deductibles, co-insurance and co-payments should be known prior to the patient’s appointment. If a scheduled service is not covered, that also must be noted.
In a perfect scenario, phone calls should be made to the patient before their appointment in order to make them aware of what their financial responsibilities are and the fact that payment will be expected at the time of their visit. All conversations should be noted in the patients’ accounts to avoid the “no one told me I owed” scenario when the patient is standing at your check-in desk.
Practices should aim to collect 100% of deductibles, co-pays and co-insurance balances every day at the patient visit level. This eliminates the need to generate statements at all and lowers your overall outstanding revenue.
Front office staff and schedulers should be trained to remind patients of co-pays and past due balances during their communications with them. When a patient calls to schedule an appointment, the scheduler should remind them of an outstanding balance, that they should bring the payment with them when they come in and what types of payment forms are accepted by your office.
This conversation needs to be noted in the patient account and needs to be reinforced with check-in staff. “Mrs. Doe, I see Jane reminded you about your balance when you called to schedule last week. How will you be paying that today?”
There has to be consistency and teamwork among the office staff. Each level must support the other. Though your schedulers may argue they are not billers, they most certainly are because each piece of information that they gather plays a part in how quickly and error-free a claim submission can be processed.
The goal of every medical office should be that patient statements are not needed and that all patient owed balances are collected up front at the time of service. A reduction in the number of statements being sent out from your practice means two things: 1) you are collecting more monies up front and 2) you are saving a substantial amount of money due to the decreased need for statement mailings.
Did You Know?
According to the Medical Group Management Association (April 2010):
- 30% of patients who owe you money walk out the door without paying anything
- For every $100 you are owed, you can expect to get a little more than $15 after collections take over
- Your practice will need to generate an average of 3.3 patient statements before that balance is resolved
Outsourcing your medical billing and collection needs is one of the smartest decisions you can make. Not only does it relieve you of the need to oversee and be responsible for a billing staff, but chances are you would also require the expertise of a billing manager which can come at a steep cost to your practice.
Agnite Health LLC, an affiliate of Advantage Administration, Inc., specializes in ophthalmology billing for practices of any size. We have all the processes in place and over 25 years of experience and knowledge that will be of great benefit to your practice. Our staff treat your patient accounts as if they were our own. Your office’s ability to be profitable and successful means we are profitable and successful. We will work hand in hand with your physicians and office staff to maximize your cash flow and decrease your receivables. Contact us today to find out how we will handle the intricacies of medical billing for your practice.