Improving Patient Collections: 4 Effective Tips To Elevate Your PT Practice’s Bottom Line

May 30, 2024 | Blog, Front Desk, Healthcare

Over-the-counter patient collections are one of the most important aspects of running a physical therapy practice, as they define a significant portion of the bottom line.

However, it seems that it’s becoming increasingly challenging to collect patient balances.

Patient collection rates have decreased from 54.8% in 2021 to 47.8% in 2023.

(Becker’s Hospital Review)

Poor patient collection rates can cause substantial issues to the operations of your PT practice. When patient balances are not collected at the time of service, your chances of receiving payment decrease by more than 50%.

Thus, it’s vital to ensure that you stay on top of patient balances as this reduces collection costs and bad debts. Here’s what you need to know to improve your PT practice’s patient collections.

Why Is It Important To Improve Your Patient Collections

Patient billings define a medical practice’s revenue cycle. High collection rates are vital to keeping clinical operations running smoothly. Here are three significant reasons why:

  1. Reducing bad debt – Outstanding balances lead to bad debt, which significantly affects clinical operations and causes problems with revenue cycle management.
  2. Ensuring a streamlined workflow – When billing is sorted out, numerous workflow processes in the clinic become smoother.
  3. Improving provider motivation – Depending on your practice’s structure, providers’ compensation may be based on collections, so improving it reduces many of their personal and administrative burdens.

4 Tips On How To Improve Patient Collections

1. Assign Patient Billings To Your Receptionist

  • Collect payments and remind patients about their dues through your receptionists.
  • Train your front desk to be knowledgeable about billing processes and regulations.
  • Delegate all other administrative burdens from your PTs to your receptionists.

Your receptionists can do more than facilitate check-in for your patients. With ample training, they can manage the patient collections process and remind patients about their dues via email, phone call, or text. For best results, assign all your PTs’ administrative responsibilities to your receptionists so that they can focus on patient care.

Are you running a PT clinic without receptionists? You may want to reconsider. Having dedicated front desk staff can significantly improve clinical operations, healthcare quality, and the patient experience.

2. Be Transparent With Pricing

  • Encourage patient responsibility by having them verify their insurance benefits and place a card on file.
  • Provide billing estimates upfront before the appointment with a price breakdown.
  • Give approximate pricing for future appointments.

One of the most common concerns of PT patients is the pricing of their treatment. The issue, however, is not how expensive the treatment is, as most patients are willing to pay for their recovery. The problem is that they don’t have a clear idea of how much it is.

90% of patients want to know how much they owe before an appointment.

(InstaMed, “Trends in Healthcare Payments 2023)

When pricing is unclear, patients may be unable to pay on time. In the worst-case scenario, they may cancel or not show up for their next appointment, leading to issues not only in workflow but also in billing.

To avoid this, instill patient responsibility among your clients. You can do this by encouraging them to place a card on file to set the expectation that payment is due. This will also keep their accounts in a manageable status.

Also, always refer your patients to contact their membership services, usually by calling the number on the back of their insurance card. They will provide the patient with a precise estimate of how much their benefits plan will cover for their treatment and what their expected cost will be. Guaranteed costs can be determined only when a claim is processed and paid by their insurance provider.

In addition, modify your payment process to be transparent about the pricing of your treatment, not only for individual appointments but also for future appointments. Provide pricing estimates before the upcoming appointment and for future sessions with a breakdown for each billing. This gives your patients a clear idea of the expenses of their treatment.

3. Be Empathetic With Your Patients

  • Orient your whole team to employ a patient-centered approach.
  • Maintain an accommodating attitude regardless of the patient’s socioeconomic status.
  • Focus on improving the overall patient experience.

Every patient deserves the highest possible quality of healthcare in their chosen practice. Unfortunately, that notion isn’t observed universally.

Physicians tend to perceive patients from low and middle-socioeconomic status (SES) more negatively than those from a higher SES.

(van Ryne & Burke, “The effect of patient race and socioeconomic status on physicians’ perceptions”)

When patients are unable to pay, they must still receive the same quality of healthcare and experience as patients who are otherwise financially capable.

Facilitating a consistent patient experience across all patients regardless of socioeconomic status establishes your practice as accommodating and considerate. Train your team to employ a patient-centered approach in every aspect of their work.

To achieve the best results with this approach, encourage your patients to make a “Good Faith” payment. This will demonstrate their willingness to pay down a balance. In the long run, offering a convenient payment plan for the patient and the business should be established to ensure the completion and success of the treatment.

Also, while your patients may be behind in paying for their treatment, they will be more likely to return for future appointments.

4. Provide Flexible Financing Options

  • Diversify available modes of payment.
  • Help patients identify the most optimal payment plan to finance their treatment.
  • Consider using a patient portal to track and streamline collection more easily.

Some of your patients may be deterred by the upfront fees of their treatment.

24% of people, or about 1 out of 4, avoid seeking medical care because of high costs.

(Taber et al., “Why do People Avoid Medical Care?”)

You may have patients who are unable to pay their medical bills fully. First-time patient appointments may be unbilled due to the patient’s inability to pay, with 80% of such appointments staying unbilled due to patient dropouts.

To prevent this, proactively support your patients in finding ways to finance their treatment. Verifying their insurance coverage is one of the most effective ways to help them. You can also diversify your modes of payment so your patients can have multiple options (e.g., credit cards, online transfers). Integrating a patient portal enables online payments for patients while helping you manage billings and even patient data more seamlessly.

Patient Collections Have A Significant Impact On Your Practice

Increasing patient collection rates should be one of your top priorities throughout your practice’s operations. However, you must do this alongside improving the patient experience, as facilitating an environment where patients feel their concerns will be heard motivates them to return to your clinic.

When you couple this with a solid billing management system, you’ll be well on your way to significantly elevating your practice’s bottom line.

Patient billing is a sophisticated administrative process that may impact your providers’ workflow. If you want to streamline your patient collections, consider using WelcomeWare, a remote front desk platform that enables you to utilize patient intake solutions through video receptionist kiosks. This will help streamline the check-in process and other aspects of the front desk so you can maintain the quality of your patient care while improving your billing rates and the patient experience as a whole.

Increase your bottom line with your front desk

Leverage WelcomeWare’s remote front desk platform to enable your receptionists to increase patient collection rates

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