Outsourcing Patient Collection Services Can Increase Practice Stability


call center agent working over computer

The healthcare industry is becoming more challenging for independent medical practices and smooth, timely patient collections is key to financial stability. One area that significantly impacts a medical group’s financial health is the increasing rate of patient responsibility for balances due and the growing rate of patient default.

As most healthcare executives have experienced, uncollected accounts receivable (AR) can strain cash flow and limit the practice’s ability to invest in equipment, staff, and patient care initiatives.

Startling Statistics on Patient Debt and Collection Rates

The Commonwealth Fund published an October 2023 report that stated about a third of U.S. adults ages 19-64 had medical or dental debt they were paying off over time, with 67% saying they were making payments directly to a provider. About half of those said the amount they owed was less than $2,000, a relatively small amount, but adding up to billions across the U.S.

Kodiak Benchmarking Analysis studied nearly 3 million fully resolved medical claims from commercially insured patients who received services from providers in 2022 and 2023. Of the payments made to providers over the two-year study period, about 20% were patients’ responsibility. The report states that providers collected less than half – 47.6% – of what patients owed them for care in 2022 and 2023. [Source: Kodiak “Drawing the line on patient responsibility collection rates”, February 2024]

Kodiak went further and discovered the fine line of amounts most likely to be collected. Most patients paid their outstanding balance when the amount was less than $500. Most didn’t pay their debt when the amount was more than $500. This underlines the importance of prioritizing patient collections at the time of service.

So, what does this mean to a small and medium provider group and how can they stop the cycle of patient bad debt?

The Consequences of Inefficient Patient Collections

Inefficient patient collections can have a severe ripple effect on your practice’s financial health. There are real downside consequences to not effectively managing patient responsibilities:

  • Reduced Cash Flow: Uncollected patient balances directly impact your cash flow, limiting your ability to cover operating expenses, invest in new equipment and technology, and expand services.
  • Increased Practice Operational Costs: Managing delinquent accounts requires dedicating staff time and resources to follow-up calls, letters, and potential collections efforts. This diverts resources from core patient care activities.
  • Strained Patient Relationships: When patients receive multiple collection notices or phone calls, it can create tension and negatively impact their experience. This can lead to negative online reviews and discourage future visits.
  • Limited Practice Growth Potential: A practice struggling with AR issues may not have the financial resources to invest in growth initiatives, such as hiring new staff, expanding services, or adopting new technologies.

Best Practices for Streamlined Patient Collections: How UnisLink Improves AR and Collection Rates

To optimize your patient collections and reduce your time in accounts receivable, we recommend implementing these best practices below by partnering with UnisLink.

Here’s a detailed breakdown of key patient collection strategies that we recommend for practices and how we partner for their success.

Communicate with Patients Upfront

It is critical to set clear expectations about the patient’s financial responsibility from the very beginning. We recommend being proactive to collect the small balances upfront, and the large balances with regular payment plans. Consider these best practices for patient communication on responsibility for payment:

  • Pre-visit Estimates: Provide patients with a detailed estimate of potential charges before treatment. This could include factoring in insurance coverage and potential patient responsibility.
  • Financial Policy Disclosure: Have a clear and concise financial policy outlining payment terms, accepted payment methods, and late fee structures. Make this policy readily available online and in your waiting room.
  • Insurance Verification: Prior to treatment, verify patient insurance coverage and eligibility to minimize potential denial claims and unexpected out-of-pocket costs for patients.
  • Use Patient Eligibility Verification Software: By outsourcing your RCM to UnisLink, your practice has access to advanced technology that integrates seamlessly with your EHR/EMR system to support patient eligibility verification.

Offer Multiple Payment Options & Convenience

Practices should offer a variety of payment options making it easier for patients to settle their bills promptly.

  • Credit Card on File (CCoF): At time of patient check-in and check-out is the perfect time to ask for a CCoF. When the patient submits their ID and insurance information, ask them to sign a CCoF agreement to pay future balances after insurance has been processed.
  • Online Payments: Patients can access an online portal to easily review statements, view balances, and make electronic payments.
  • Credit Card Processing: Accept major credit cards for co-pays, deductibles, or full payments at the time of service.
  • Installment Plans: For larger patient balances, consider offering flexible installment plans to accommodate patients with financial limitations.
  • In-Person Payments: Ensure your front desk staff is prepared to accept cash, check, or credit card payments at the time of service.

Ensure Accurate Medical Billing and Coding

Errors in medical billing are a significant contributor to time in AR. Here’s how UnisLink manages your billing process to reduce errors and improve collection rates:

  • Advanced Medical Billing System: We offer a highly advanced, but user-friendly medical billing software that ensures accurate coding and timely insurance claim submissions.
  • Regular Staff Training: We provide certified medical coders and a billing team that utilizes proper coding practices, payer-specific guidelines, and stays up-to-date on the latest regulations.
  • Regular Audits and Reviews: We conduct regular audits of your billing processes to identify and rectify any errors or discrepancies. Our management team conducts client coding reviews to ensure our professional medical coding is accurate and aligns with regulatory requirements.

Deploy Early Intervention and Proactive Follow-Up

The key to successful collections lies in early intervention. Here are some steps we take:

  • Automated Patient Reminders: Automated phone calls, text messages, and email reminders keep patients informed about outstanding balances and encourage timely payments.
  • Online Patient Portal: Patients can access their statements, view balances, and make secure online payments through a user-friendly online portal.
  • Prompt Statements: We generate and send patient statements electronically or by mail promptly after each service.
  • Inbound Call Center: Patients are welcome to contact our call center to inquire about their invoices or pay over the phone.
  • Segmentation Strategies: We segment your patient population based on outstanding balances and tailor collection efforts accordingly. Patients with smaller balances may require gentle reminders, while those with larger balances may need more personalized contact.

Effective Communication with Patients Will Improve Balance Collections

Open and transparent communication with patients is crucial throughout the collection process. Previously we mentioned being upfront with patients about balances and expectations of payment responsibility at the time of scheduling, check-in, and check-out.

Here are some best practices we implement for effective ongoing patient communications:

  • Clear and Understandable Billing: Patients should receive clear and understandable invoices that detail services rendered and associated charges. Avoid medical jargon and use plain language. We have standard templates and help practices with invoices designed to encourage prompt payment.
  • Detailed Explanations: Be prepared to answer patient questions regarding charges and clarify any confusion about their financial responsibility. Our call center is prepared to answer the tough questions.
  • Empathy and Respect: Recognize that patients may face financial hardship. Approach collection efforts with empathy and offer resources to help them manage their bills. This could include discussing payment options, charity care programs, or financial assistance plans.
  • Multi-Channel Communication: We utilize various communication channels to reach patients, such as phone calls, text messages, email, and online patient portals. This allows patients to choose their preferred method of communication.
  • Focus on Patient Retention: We maintain a patient-centric approach throughout the collection process. The goal is to collect payments while fostering positive relationships and encouraging patients to return for future services.

With UnisLink You’ll Have Advanced Patient Collections Technology and Expert Services

UnisLink offers full suite medical billing and patient collection services that can improve your practice’s financial stability. Our team leverages a powerful combination of advanced technology and expert service teams to automate and smooth out the collection process, maximizing your revenue recovery.

Expert Service Teams for Personalized Attention

UnisLink goes well beyond automation. Our team of experienced and dedicated professionals handle all aspects of the collection process, including:

  • Insurance Verification and Follow-Up: UnisLink ensures accurate insurance verification and handles all follow-up communications with insurance companies to maximize reimbursements.
  • Professional and Compassionate Collections Staff: Their team members are trained to collect payments in a professional and compassionate manner, prioritizing patient relationships while maximizing recoveries.
  • Customized Collection Strategies: UnisLink works with you to develop customized collection strategies tailored to your practice’s needs and patient demographics.
  • Inbound Call Center Support: UnisLink operates a dedicated inbound call center staffed by trained professionals to handle patient inquiries and resolve billing issues promptly. This frees up your in-house staff to focus on other tasks and ensures patients receive timely assistance with their billing concern.

By partnering with UnisLink, you can focus on what matters most – delivering exceptional patient care – while we handle the complexities of medical billing and collections.

Contact us today for more information on how patient collections at your practice can improve immediately.