A good financial policy serves two purposes: It reduces exposures to your office but it should also eliminate surprise to your patients. With the new year, this is an opportune time to pull out this guiding document and give it a checkup to make sure it follows best practices.
- Is it easy to understand? First, look at the language in your policy. Jargon and legalese may please your attorney, but it will only alienate and confuse your patients. In plain language, it should clearly outline patient expectations along with your procedures.
- Does the policy outline notification steps? It may surprise you how often debt collectors reach consumers who insist they had absolutely no idea they owed money, and so it’s worth taking a hard look at the notification procedures listed in your policy.
- Are patients getting monthly notices sent to their last known address that payment is late?
- Do you send the final notice at least 30 days before the account is turned over to collections?
- Do your notifications inform patients of resources for financial assistance?
- Does it offer contact information to an office staffer who can answer their questions and address their concerns?
- Does your office attempt to reach these patients by phone before turning over the account to collections? (This step can uncover an incorrect billing address and clear up the problem ahead of time.)
- Is your policy up-to-date? While most offices have a financial policy and give it to their patients to sign, not all take the time to have it reviewed periodically by their attorney and collection partners. Even small changes in state and federal law affecting your office can occur in any given year, so you don’t want to unknowingly expose your office to a lawsuit.
- Are patients signing the policy? If your collection partner has this documentation, along with records of service and your attempts to contact the patient, you will have a stronger case for collection. In addition to that, the collection partner will be armed with the best available information to help you solve the issue. But the first visit should not be the last time patients see it. Post it in your waiting room as well as on your website.
A clear, well-thought-out financial policy will give your office staff a clear path to handle your patients’ past-due accounts, while also assuring patients you are dealing with them fairly.
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