Let experts do the bill chasing
So you’ve still not been paid? Well, sending the invoice is the easy bit.
We occasionally find doctors who wonder why their secretary might want or need to outsource their billing and collection.
When this happens, the first thing that springs to mind is the fact that the specialist may be unaware of all the demands arising from running a modern successful practice.
This is fine, as their focus should be on the delivery of excellent patient care, but a consultant should never underestimate how time-consuming and often awkward the billing process can be in private healthcare.
A good secretary or practice manager who can manage the day-to-day running of the practice and everything it brings as well as the billing and collection is worth their weight in gold.
The heavy workload is also multi-faceted, so some secretaries who are good at dealing with patients are often not as good at asking for money. Not everyone is comfortable having these conversations, especially if there is a difficult patient to deal with.
So let’s consider the various parts of the billing and collection process and the issues these bring.
Getting hold of patients
A lot of our account managers’ time is spent contacting patients by both emails and phone calls. This can take many attempts before contact is made and can be for many reasons such as the collection of outstanding payments, notification of excesses and shortfalls or clarification of patient information such as correct insurance and contact details.
Dealing with private insurance companies
Insurers increasingly expect billing information to be sent online or through a portal like Bupa online or Healthcode.
This makes perfect sense in terms of speed of payment, cost and accuracy to the insurer, but can result in many problems with invoices failing or being rejected.
You need to put strong procedures in place to ensure these errors are managed effectively.
When a secretary has been used to sending these invoices by post and then has had to switch to electronic transfer, we regularly find a practice in distress from errors. And, in some cases, they were not even aware of the problem.
Each insurer has its own pricing policy and rules about invoicing and these need to be understood and followed. Some insurers limit the times when you contact them to raise queries and how many queries can be raised on each occasion. This causes bottlenecks in busy practices or where staff look after more than one consultant.
By this we mean matching payments against individual invoices. Payments can come in from various sources such as insurers, patients, solicitors, embassies and hospitals. These can arrive individually or can be combined, reflecting remittances relating to multiple invoices.
Our account managers carry out this function as part of their dayto-day activities, which means these payments are identified and applied to the relevant invoice.
If we find a balance outstanding, then an invoice needs to go out promptly to the patient to inform them of their liability. This can be a time-consuming job requiring ‘quiet time’ which is difficult to find in a busy practice.
So, unfortunately, this tends to mean it gets put off. That means the aged debt can rise. The problem escalates as staff find it a Herculean task to resolve and this cycle just repeats until you take action to break it.
Often when we take on new clients, this becomes a major part of their onboarding process. We call it intensive care, a process of ensuring this backlog of outstanding debt is identified, invoiced and chased.
Obtaining patient information
When a practice takes on a new patient, there should always be a process to get all the relevant information to allow the billing to be managed effectively.
A clear and concise patient registration form can be a good idea if you ensure that this is filled in correctly. Robust processes at the start can ensure the patient experiences a smooth payment pathway through the practice.
Sending the invoice
Many busy practices think sending the invoice is 90% of the collection process. This is only the first step in this process.
All our calls and patient engagement are automatically diarised by the account manager to ensure maximum effectiveness and provide a complete audit trail for reference should a problem occur.
Sending the invoice is only the tip of the iceberg. Certainly no one would pay without one.
But if you consider all the other demands on a busy practice, from managing emails and calls from patients, scheduling appointments, managing patients’ medical records and letters, co-ordinating diagnostic tests and other hospital services, then its easy to see how the billing function can get put to one side.
Given all the pitfalls of billing and collection in a private practice, outsourcing can be an attractive and cost-effective option.
- 01494 763 999
- Medical Billing & Collection
Buckinghamshire HP7 9LP
More than Just a Billing Company