Don’t leave it too late
£ Send out the invoice promptly
There is nothing new in highlighting the fact that people often delay paying invoices for as long as possible.
Logic therefore follows that the sooner you get the invoice in the patient’s hand, the sooner it is likely to be paid.
This should be done on the day of treatment or, by the latest, in the days following treatment.
This way, there is a much greater chance of it being paid quickly and if there is any issue, you will know sooner rather than later.
£ Check invoices before sending
Having correct information on the invoices is crucial. You do not want to give the person you are sending the invoice to, whether they are the patient, an embassy or an insurance company, any excuse to ignore your invoice or query it.
Also, inaccurate data on invoices reflects badly on the practice.
£ Offer a range of payment options
It is good to offer different payment options to patients.
Most will use credit and debit cards, some will favour cash and, increasingly, others will use internet banking. Interestingly, at Medical Billing and Collection, we process nearly 60% of payments from patients at weekends. This means having the ability to settle invoices out of normal working hours is important and convenient for patients and should lead to bills being settled quicker
£ Code insured work correctly
If you are new to private practice, you will often want to both register with private medical insurers such as Bupa and AXA PPP and also familiarise yourself with Clinical Coding and Schedule Development group (CCSD) codes.
These are the codes commonly used by insurance companies to both define and price what treatment has been carried out.
It is important to code the treatment correctly, as insurance companies are very particular about this. CCSD codes also change monthly and, as there are over 2,000 codes, it is a good idea to regularly check your coding is up to date and accurate. Don’t miss our new series Code Buster! in every issue of Independent Practitioner Today (see opposite)
£ Include letters of guarantee and/or medical reports
Private medical insurance (PMI) policies may not always cover treatment in full due to the terms of the policy.
This will also often be a surprise to patients who may not be familiar with the policy terms, especially if their private medical insurance is through their work. This will result in either an excess needing to be paid by the patient or a shortfall.
An excess occurs from the specific terms of each individual policy and a shortfall is when a patient’s policy only covers a proportion of the consultant’s fee.
In either case, a new invoice needs to be raised to the patient for the balance. These co-payments need to be identified, invoiced and chased in a timely fashion otherwise they quickly mount up and become a problem.
£ Chase unpaid invoices regularly
It is important to chase unpaid invoices regularly. This should involve both re-issuing invoices as well as making phone calls. But you might want to vary the regularity of chasing invoices based on the type of private work you do; for example, self-pay, PMI, embassy and medico-legal.
Speaking to a patient about an unpaid invoice should also be prioritised, as it will let you know if there is any dispute, which is important, especially if you plan to see the patient in the future.
Whatever system/procedures you decide upon, it is vital that you follow up unpaid invoices systematically and consistently or, before too long, you can find unpaid invoices mounting up. This is often a major issue in big and busy practices.
£ Regularly review what you charge
We would recommend reviewing your prices at least annually if not every six months. Many factors can impact fees, such as location, a consultant’s experience along with simple issues like demand for your services.
It is important to keep up to date with insurance pricing for specific procedures, as these vary across each insurer and are also subject to review along with their coding rules previously mentioned. It is also important that you remain not only up to date but also competitive.
£ Adequately resource your billing department
As practices grow, so do their needs for administration support. This will vary from a consultant starting out in private practice managing everything on their own, to then needing a part-time/ full-time secretary, to perhaps joining a group or a clinic with a practice manager and team.
All these changes need to be adequately resourced. Often we find consultants coming to us in various states of disarray, where bad debts have accumulated and often it will be because they have not invested in sufficient administration support.
£ Make necessary changes in a timely fashion
There is a big difference between understanding the theory and putting it into practice. It is all well and good knowing what you should be doing, but change is often difficult, annoying and a hassle and therefore can be put off.
All we would suggest here is, if you spot an issue arising, especially if it comes to your billing and collection and thus affecting the all-important cash flow of your practice, take action. It is much better in the long term.
So when you next get a spare moment, we suggest reviewing your own practice against the list above or discussing it with your practice manager/secretary if you have not done so recently.
Once you have done this and identified any changes necessary, make sure you implement them and ensure they are adhered to.
Of course, it may make more sense to turn to experts in this field and get some professional help from a billing and collection company
- 01494 763 999
- Medical Billing & Collection
Buckinghamshire HP7 9LP
More than Just a Billing Company