A significantly increasing portion of your revenue is now coming directly from patients.
Or at least it should be.
Billions of self pay accounts receivable dollars go uncollected each year. The upward trend of more patient responsibility for healthcare services is coupled with the added hurdle of new stricter regulations regarding how and when patients are contacted. The Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) was put in place to protect patients from collectors and unsolicited callers, but may damper self pay collections for healthcare facilities.
Making calls to the patient to collect self pay is critical to your practice’s cash flow and avoiding bad debt write-offs. Start by determining who to call (prioritize receivables based on balance size, age, prior payment history, etc.) and when to call (typically 3-4 weeks after the first statement) , then get the most out of each self pay call by using these 21 techniques. You’ll get better results, collect more money and, importantly, lower your stress level.
Preparation builds the confidence and competence needed for successful patient payment.
2. Be Prepared
If possible, review the account before calling and be ready to quickly look up information during the call. It’s OK to leave a message when you can’t reach the patient. Do not, however, elaborate on the nature of the call—just say that you are calling from Dr. Smith’s practice and leave a call-back number.
Don’t check email or do other small, unrelated tasks as you make calls. Maintaining complete focus on the caller helps you to convey the optimism, confidence, and trust that can lead to an agreement on making payment.
4. Sit up
When making a self pay call, sit up straight in your chair. Visualizing the patient in front of you helps you to stay alert and focused on getting a mutually positive outcome.
5. Say Their Name
Show respect by addressing the patient by name during a self pay call (but don’t overdo it—insincere respect just annoys the patient).
During every patient call, make sure to ask for the patient’s current mailing address and insurance information. Some patients aren’t paying because they never receive your statements.
7. Be Helpful and Educate
Help patients understand their balance and why it is owed. Ask patients who aren’t paying if there is a reason for their delay and what the provider organization can do to help.
8. Show Compassion
Acknowledging the patient’s financial situation and being sympathetic helps keep the lines of communication open. Based on his or her situation, you can determine a solution that works for both of you.
9. Don't Belittle
Patients are less likely to pay— or even take your calls in the future—if they feel you are treating them like deadbeats.
10. Give Feedback
Your voice’s inflections, pitch, and speed are important variables to patient call success.
11. Use Scripts
A few handy replies can help immensely. For example, say things like “I understand that many people are having financial difficulties right now” or “Can we work out a way to get your account current?”
12. Be Neutral
Smile to sound pleasant; don’t frown. Both gestures affect your tone of voice.
13. Command Attention
Speak up but don't shout during self pay calls.
14. Watch Your Emotions
Your self pay call might be just one of many that the patient is getting.
15. Stay in Control
Listen respectfully but don’t let the patient take you off track with excuses or unrelated details.
Count to five before responding to a patient who wants to pay less than the full amount due.
17. Encourage Credit Cards
It’s not good enough to get a promise to pay; encourage credit card payments by phone.
18. Get a Commitment
A successful patient call in results in an agreement- an obligation to pay in full or in part—to set up a payment plan or to come into the office for financial counseling.
19. Be Flexible
Give patients a little extra time (days not months) if they want to speak to their insurance company or employer before they agree to pay you. Schedule a follow-up call before you hang up.
20. Create a Record
Take good notes during a self pay call. Let the patient know that you are documenting their commitment to make payment. Send a confirmation and perhaps a summary of your notes, as well.
When the patient agrees to pay or make other arrangements always repeat the key facts back to him or her. Restate your expectations of how payment(s) will be made and outline any consequences of failing to follow through.
The Bottom Line
Each phone call with a patient is an opportunity to demonstrate your commitment to helping them navigate an ever-changing healthcare landscape. Following the above tips during self pay patient calls is a practical way to make a positive impact on your self pay collection rate and the overall patient financial experience. Please download the 21 tips printable checklist to share with your customer service representatives.