Log uncollected amounts, keep up computers to boost revenue collection

By now, many practices have gotten serious about collecting patient copays at registration, well before the patient sees the physician. But practices that limit themselves to collecting only copays risk letting revenues slip away.

"Collecting copays is not hard, but coinsurance, deductibles, and past-due payments are more challenging to manage well," Margaret Hoban, executive vice president at Southwind, a Nashville-based division of The Advisory Board Company, told FiercePracticeManagement. "Structure and discipline at the front end of the revenue cycle is the key. Smaller practices have tended to be better at going beyond just copays, probably because physicians are more closely aligned with what happens at the front desk.

Try this: Ask your business staff to review the following day's appointment schedule and to estimate the dollar amount that your office staff should collect from patients that day. The following day, ask your front desk staff to write down an explanation for any uncollected amounts.

The resulting report will help you identify your log jams. It's also a great training tool," Atlanta-based consultant Elizabeth Woodcock of Woodcock & Associates said. "The supervisor can go over the 'why not's' and teach the staff member techniques to address each one."

Another winning strategy: Keep your systems current. The staff at pain specialist Michael Cassaro's Jeffersonville, Ind.-based practice knows each patient's deductible and coinsurance requirements because they've made the effort to keep their computer systems current. 

"Practices often fail to enter the defined reimbursement rates from their top six or seven commercial or government contracts into their system--they may only enter Medicare rates, for example--which means they're just accepting whatever they get from the payer," Hoban said. "If they load each payer's fee schedule into the practice management system, they could flag underpayments very easily."

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