There are some obvious thoughts about what it means to stay on top of your practice’s accounts receivable. At a very high level, this means having an understanding of revenue cycle management. The question is, how can you apply that concept to the effective administration of a psychiatric or behavioral healthcare practice?
Here are some straightforward ideas employed by Valant’s in-house practice management services team to help keep their days in accounts receivable at a low number.
1. Have a fee agreement as part of your new patient paperwork. Make sure the fee agreement clearly outlines your payment policies, including any charges for late cancellation or no shows, and phone calls. Many specialists ask to keep credit card information on file because of the very costly nature of no shows and cancellations. Be very explicit about how and when the credit card will be charged if one is kept on file.
2. Confirm demographic and insurance information with patients at every encounter. That way you can make sure your statements will be delivered to the correct address, and you will not waste time and money by sending claims to an insurance carrier that no longer provides coverage for your patient. Rather than asking, ‘is your information the same?’, actually state what is on file for your patient, i.e., ‘we have your insurance as ABC ins. company, and do you still live on Oak St.?’ Related to this, do a benefits check prior to seeing new patients, or when your patient’s give you new insurance info. We have two great blog posts about why performing outpatient mental health benefit checks matters.
3. Collect copays at the time of service. Some insurance contracts actually list this as a requirement in the contract language.
4. Be aware of your insurance a/r. Electronic claims submissions are typically handled within a fairly short time frame. If you have claims that were submitted to your insurance carriers over 45 days ago, and you do not have a response, there might be a problem. Some possible scenarios are that the claim was never received by the carrier, it was submitted to the wrong carrier, or additional information is needed to process the claim. Reviewing your insurance aging report can help you identify these situations at a glance.
5. Stay on top of patient balances. This can be related to your insurance A/R if you do not have up-to-date insurance information on your patients. You and your patients can quickly become demoralized if a patient balance due quickly balloons into an unmanageable number. As soon as you become aware that a patient is accumulating a large balance, work out a payment arrangement or agreement as soon as possible if they are unable to pay in full. Once that payment arrangement is made, make sure they stick to the plan. This might include creating a patient notification in your EMR that will give you or your staff an additional reminder to verify your patient is keeping up with their payments.
These are a few ideas to help you manage the cash flow of your practice. The best way to incorporate these ideas is to make them your habits. When you begin to reap the financial rewards, it will be very easy for you to keep going and incorporate them into your work day structure.