If you don’t give diligent attention to accounts receivable, collections can get messy – fast. Even if you feel that your A/R is running smoothly, it’s important to audit and clean up operations from time to time to ensure that your processes and cash flow stay manageable.
It may be a little late in the year for “spring cleaning,” but it’s still essential that you sweep out the clutter and unclog the stoppages in your A/R. Read on for three quick tips that can help your practice collect.
1. Purge Old Data
The best place to start in cleaning up A/R: take out the trash. The amount of patient data housed in your systems can be staggering, and if you haven’t been taking care to keep it up-to-date, it can easily get outdated and out of control.
It’s not enough to have your front desk staff collect billing and demographic data from new patients – or even to just ask for updated info at the first of the year. Have your employees at reception ask visitors to verify their patient information and insurance card data at every visit (less for high-frequency patients) then make the updates in your system immediately.
Once your process is revamped, take a deep dive into your data to see what you can get rid of. You don’t need to retain the data of patients who have long ago left your practice – purge what you can, then perform some comparison checking between your balances and your data to get a handle on what may or may not get collected.
Are you waiting on a missed co-pay from a deceased patient or a vaccine reimbursement from a now-defunct payer? It might be financially worthwhile to just wipe those small balances from the books as losses, rather than put a wealth of time, money, and effort into continually billing for them.
For large sums, continue to take appropriate collections measures and legal recourses, including to…
2. Collect From Recurring Patients
This one may seem obvious, but in many practices, patients with payment balances are frequently let of the hook from coughing up at the time of visit. Even if they’re asked to pay at the end of the encounter, their requests to just receive the bill in the mail oftentimes win out.
That can allow patients to accumulate aged balances that just get bigger and bigger as the patients continue to come in for care. Getting your A/R in order requires that you collect these existing balances on the date of service and eliminate them from your to-do list. But how should you go about it?
Your front desk attendants are your patients’ first point of contact with your practice and your best allies in this aspect of collections, so give them the notice and advance tools they need to procure payment on the day of a patient’s appointment.
Develop a system in which your administrators check the next day’s appointments for existing balances before making reminder calls or sending confirmation emails. In those communications, notify patients with outstanding balances that they will be expected to surrender payment as soon as they arrive.
When the patient arrives, staff should be firm about payment requirements and escalate the situation to a billing department rep or manager if a delinquent-payment patient refuses to pony up. Delineate specific policies regarding outstanding balances and provide staffers with adequate training to keep your inflow of cash from being stalled.
3. Run Reports on Collections Trends
So you’ve dumped your unnecessary data and recouped what you were due. Now, you need to make sure you continue to keep things clean by doing the proper reporting.
“Failure to analyze collection performance can be a major headache,” writes Judy Capko of Physicians Practice. “Too often the staff is focused on getting the billing off their desks and the claims submitted, but have little time to follow up on receivables, analyze the practice’s financial performance, and improve collections.”
It’s critical to perform upkeep on your enhanced collections process by using the analytics capabilities of your practice management system to monitor A/R effectiveness.
Use your reporting capabilities to delineate the remaining areas of weakness in A/R. Are you performing exceptionally when it comes to patient collections but still being stunted by a high percentage of denials or a low first-pass resolution rate?
Weekly analysis of your collection backlog and monthly review of outstanding A/R – along with other reports – will elucidate problematic trends. Once you know what areas to focus on, you can give proper attention to perfecting your performance in those areas.
Plus, continued monitoring is the only way to ensure you keep things orderly in accounts receivable. With effective reporting and analysis, you won’t need to do a “clean sweep” of A/R overhaul – you’ll be able to maintain cash flow by consistently reviewing your processes and performance.