What to do when your patients aren't paying

Following the Supreme Court’s ruling on the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA), the industry can be certain that regulatory mandates, aligned with PPACA, are coming. One of the most prominent changes for which the industry should prepare is that approximately 30 million uninsured Americans will begin to receive healthcare coverage in 2014. This means that more patients will receive healthcare services, and hundreds of millions of patient payment transactions will be added to the U.S. healthcare system.

But what can providers do if their patients aren’t paying?  Many providers already face challenges with collecting patient payments, as providers wrote off $65 billion in patient bad debt in 2010, according to McKinsey research. With an increase in patient volume and the rise in healthcare consumerism, this problem will become worse unless providers implement new payment models.

Here’s how Millington Family Medicine, a recently established family practice clinic, overcame this challenge.

Lessons learned from inefficient processes
Missing out on money. At their previous clinic, the staff members of Millington Family Medicine were unable to accept payments via credit or debit card. Since most of their patients preferred to pay with a card and often did not bring checks or cash with them, many patients were unable to pay at the point of service. On average, the clinic collected a patient’s payment three to four weeks after the visit, if at all.

“We were unable to collect 30 to 40 percent of payments because we couldn’t accept credit/debit cards,” said Rosemary Jacobs, one of the providers at Millington Family Medicine. “We were missing out on a lot of money.”

Manual, paper-based processes. Since payments were collected separately from the clinic’s practice management system (PMS), the staff member at the front desk had to manually reconcile check and cash payments at the end of each day, taking up to two hours each week. And any time there was a question about a past payment, the staff would have to search through spreadsheets to find the payment.

A fresh start with integrated patient payments
Patient payments made easy. When founding Millington Family Medicine, the staff decided to use integrated patient payment tools with its PMS to collect more payments and manage them efficiently. Today, the staff collects all patient payments by credit/debit card, cash or check at the point of service. This has enabled the clinic to receive payments weeks sooner and prevent accruing patient bad debt.

“We’re collecting payments before our patients even leave the office, and the whole process of collecting payments is a lot quicker,” said Jacobs.

Automated posting and convenient reporting. By leveraging a secure, private cloud, all payments are posted in real time, so the staff never has to spend time working with paper reports and Excel spreadsheets to manually record payments.

“We don’t have to manually input information or use any paper because it’s all right there,” said Jacobs. “And if we have a question about a payment on a certain day, we just click on the month and day, and we can see all the information we need right away.”

The result: a thriving business
By integrating patient payment tools with its PMS, Millington Family Medicine is collecting payments at the point of service to avoid increased days in A/R and patient bad debt. And with automated payment posting and reconciliation, the clinic is paperless and spends virtually no time processing payments. This enables the providers to focus more on patient care and the clinic to thrive as a business.

This article originally appeared on the InstaMed Healthcare Payments Blog.