Lets face it, asking for payment at the time of service is a huge challenge in our day to day activities. This is the one task lots of people shy away from. And, in many cases this important part of the overall revenue piece is left to one of the lower paid members of our staff. These team members and their collection efforts are crucial to the success or failure of the practice. But, why is there a lack of production in this part of the revenue cycle?
Setting priorities and sticking to them
Folks; your receptionist likely gets intimidated when asking for payment, and there are a lot of people in her distinguished company. Asking for money is about as popular to most people, as public speaking. You see, asking for a past due payment is confrontational, its requires an aire of bravado, and it takes doing a little research to make sure the debt is actually owed. Sometimes the billing system, if they even have access to it, can be unclear. Is it a billing debt? Or, has it already been written off to collections? Did the patient have a special verbal agreement with the provider where they would not collect payment after the insurance has paid? This is a minefield, the receptionist has to navigate through. So, not knowing the answers to these questions, makes not asking for payment at the time of service, well frankly- less uncomfortable. Its human nature for people to choose to do the things is their lives they find most comfortable. Then, when you have the variable that his or her pay is by no means affected by not asking, well then where’s the motivation?
So how do we help our receptionist get over this feeling of discomfort they likely feel day in and day out? We at Medlink Services, do training seminars on this very subject. We role play, we teach our clients in this role, how to actually ask for payment (because there is a right way and a wrong way to ask for payment), and most importantly, we have a ‘real time’ billing system the receptionist can access and check accounts, thereby eliminating the ambiguity of whether or not they owe the debt. Some of our clients actually go as far as incentivizing their front desk staff to ask for payment. In the case of old balances, we have seen some of our clients pay as much as 15% of the actual dollar amount collected to the person who collects it. Our clients make a game of it; some hand out Starbucks, or movie theater gift certificates to the one person who collects the most in a given week. This is the kind of thing management should be introducing and managing. By doing so, it will have a positive ripple affect throughout the office, where people are talking about the competition and trying to outdo one another. Believe me, you throw in the opportunity for a weeks worth of Starbucks Iced Hazelnut Macchiato’s, and get ready to behold the off the charts production!
Consider implementing an incentive program to motivate your staff to ask for payment at the time of service. It doesn’t always have to be a monetary incentive, it can be something like Comp Time, or flowers delivered to the office on Friday. What it really boils down to is being recognized and letting them know their true value. So, make sure they know they’re appreciated and you can look forward to taking more checks to the bank.