Over the past year as COVID-19 has resulted in record job losses, the number of Medicaid and self-pay patients has soared. And high-deductible health plans continue to grow in popularity among employers. This has caused special challenges for allergy practices trying to collect from patients, with a number seeing increased accounts receivable balances. As a result, it may be time to rethink some of your traditional collection policies to meet today’s reality. Here are some suggestions from the Practice Management Committee:
1. Double down on patient financial counseling.
While some patients may simply be behind in their payment, others may have experienced job and/or health insurance losses. You won’t know unless you talk with them, so train staff to ask the right questions. Given the sensitivity of payment conversations, we recommend having them in a private area or on the phone rather than at the front desk. Be realistic; patients experiencing financial hardship may need special accommodations. AAFP has a sample patient financial hardship application that you may find helpful.
It’s also important to avoid financial surprises by providing patients with up-front estimates, especially for high-ticket items like skin testing or allergy shots. For more details on how to implement patient financial counseling in your practice, view our free 15-minute Patient Financial Counseling educational module in the Allergy Office Essentials package.
2. Make it as easy as possible for patients to pay.
Consider implementing a credit card on file policy to streamline the collection process. This involves storing your patients’ credit card numbers electronically (and securely), and automatically charging them for the patient balance once you’ve received the insurance payment. Find out how to implement a credit card on file program in the College’s free Credit Card on File educational module, which is part of the Allergy Office Essentials package.
We also recommend providing online payment options, and even considering nontraditional payment options like Paypal, Venmo, Zelle and Apple Pay. Younger patients in particular may prefer these options.
3. Reach out to patients with prior balances.
Review patient schedules in advance to identify patients with large outstanding balances. Call these patients prior to their appointment to discuss what and how they can pay when they arrive. Agree in advance on an expected payment amount at appointment time.
It’s a challenging time for patient collections, but with the right strategies, allergy practices can successfully collect payments while providing excellent customer service to patients. The College’s Collections Toolkit has step-by-step instructions to get you started.