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Archive October 2016 XVII, No. 10

Business Advisor: Get Patients to Pay in Full on the Day of Surgery

Collect deductibles and co-pays before you wheel patients back.

Monika Aldred

Monika Aldred


point-of-service collections SETTLE UP With today's high-deductible health plans, your business office staff must excel at point-of-service collections.

With patients paying more out-of-pocket than ever before, collecting deductibles and co-pays on the day of surgery has never been more critical to a healthy revenue stream. At our physician-owned center, where 40ยข of every $1 come from point-of-service collections, here's how we (try to) get every penny patients owe before we wheel them back for surgery.

  • Ask patients how (not if) they'll pay. When you call patients in the days before surgery to go over their deductible and co-pay, ask them how they intend to pay, not if they can pay. Training your business office staff to ask "How will you be paying?" instead of "Can you pay?" lets patients know that you expect them to pay what they owe at check-in. This little bit of verbal judo really helps. Studies have shown that consumers are less likely to pay after receiving a good or service, so you'll have a hard time getting your patients to pay up after their incisions have healed. We've conditioned patients to not worry about paying upon arrival — or departure — for health care. Undo that way of thinking so that patients know they have to pay while they're in your facility. When you make it a matter of how will you pay, not if you can pay, your staff will run more credit cards at the registration desk and chase down fewer delinquent accounts.
  • Understand your patient's plight. Despite its name, the Affordable Care Act is not so affordable. Thanks to Obamacare, more Americans have health insurance, but fewer can actually afford to use it. As insurers shift more of the burden for health costs to patients, healthcare providers used to getting paid on the back end from government and commercial insurers must now collect hundreds and sometimes thousands of dollars up front from patients. But cost-sharing health plans are also a burden for patients, some of whom must pay $10,000 or more in deductibles before their insurance kicks in, and hundreds more in co-pays. Even the relatively modest co-pay for cataract surgery — $193 in an ambulatory surgical center and about $361 in a hospital outpatient department — can be a financial hardship for some.
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