Four Tips for Painless Billing and Payments

Billing and payments are some of the biggest headaches that rheumatology practice managers must handle.

Often, there is a stark difference between what is best for your bottom dollar and what your patients prefer. In the end, keeping your patients happy and serving them well should be your number one goal. Offering a painless billing and payment process is part of good customer service and will help retain your patients and keep them coming back.

If you’re interested in making your billing and payments process more patient-friendly, it’s essential to understand what patients want and need and then balance those things with your practices requirements. Luckily, many organizations have done studies and researched how to translate those desires into easier payment options. Here are just a few of the things those studies have revealed.

Take an inventory.

Knowing where you stand will help you establish goals and periodically analyze the progress and status of your accounts by tracking:

  • The number of days in Accounts Receivable.
  • Percentage of net collections.
  • Aging of Accounts Receivable.

With a snap-shot view of these stats, you can keep your eye out for ways to improve efficiency leading to increased and more timely collections of billing and payments.

Offer online payments.

Healthcare is one of the few industries that still rely on snail mail for billing purposes. This isn’t great news for patients who have come to expect online payments and instant access to their billing statements. Many providers have avoided online payment systems because they believe their patients, who are often older, are uncomfortable with sharing their email addresses or unfamiliar with technology.

The truth is that senior citizens are the fastest-growing group joining Facebook and have become increasingly comfortable and digitally savvy as computers become more prevalent. An excellent way to incorporate online payments is to offer them as an option to those interested, graduating patients into the new system slowly. This will give them what they want without losing anyone in the shuffle.

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Send email notifications. 

One of the best ways to get in touch with people these days is through email. It’s fast, convenient, and easily accessible. Many practices have begun using email to send appointment reminders, schedule changes, and billing information, which patients prefer.

The main concern with moving to a digital strategy is ensuring that everything you email is HIPAA compliant. With the threat of hackers and security compromises, this information could be intercepted, revealing protected health information. One way to avoid this and offer your patients the utmost safety is to use a secure message center to encrypt emails. Patients must register and use a password to read the information. This extra step may seem annoying to some patients, but most will appreciate the fact that your practice has gone the extra mile to simplify their lives while keeping their information safe and secure.

Automated payments.

Many providers complain about how long it takes patients to pay their bills, and many patients are confused by multiple payments required for a single visit. They may throw out the second or third bill, not realizing it is an additional one and not a repeat of the first. One way to avoid this is to keep a credit card on file and charge it as needed via an automated system. This would ensure that your medical practice gets the money it needs promptly for the services it provides, which will allow you to serve your patients better. While some patients may feel uncomfortable about automated payments, an easy way to get them on board is to remind them that they’ll avoid overdue fees.

Plus, automatic payments can constantly be challenged or refunded in the event of miscommunication or a mistake. Just make sure to store credit card information in a manner that meets Payment Card Industry (PCI) compliance standards.  Failure to meet PCI requirements may lead to fines, damages, and the inability to process credit cards in the future.

We hope these ideas help you streamline your billing and payment processes. By making this process easier on your practice, you’ll be able to keep the focus on what’s truly important—the health and wellness of your patients.

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  • As a speaker at the first ad hoc meeting of rheumatology practice managers gathered in a single small room at its infancy a decade ago, I’m amazed to see how NORM has blossomed into a high energy organization of depth and professional meetings with parallel break-out symposia between plenary sessions. NORM has truly come of age. This is where the “business” of rheumatology gets learned. The ”guildmanship” for rheumatology practice management is now strong.- Paul H. Caldron, DO, FACP, FACR, MBA, Arizona Arthritis and Rheumatology Associates
  • In a time of demanding changes in the management of medical practices in the US, NORM has been a lifesaver to the community of Rheumatology practices.  NORM has allowed our practice to stay ahead of the many demands of CMS and others payors and has ensured that our practice remains cognizant of new issues that arise in HIPPA compliance, human resources and medical billing to name a few. Sending our Practice Manager to NORM's conferences has been cost-effective and beneficial to our practice because she returns to our office with an abundance of information that otherwise would have taken months to compile. Every Rheumatology practice that wishes to stay on top of emerging issues in practice management should consider sending a member of their staff to NORM's conference.- Michael S. Rosen M.D., Chester County Rheumatology PC
  • Thanks to all those wonderful people in the NORM Network who respond to emails, offering their advice, experience, time, and support ... I haven't even been a member a full year yet and I am amazed at the dedication of everyone who responds to helping via emails and the NORM Organization itself! I have barely had a chance to explore the resources and I have yet to really dive into requests for help still I am silently learning so much and do occasionally offer what I can! Thank you all!- Cheryl Piambino, Kenneth E. Bresky, DO

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