These days, improving your practice or business profitability is a business-wide priority. Costs are analyzed, medical billing is scrutinized, and processes are retooled, among other things, to increase the bottom line. But while these are important steps, many practices fail to give due consideration to perhaps the most central and far-reaching aspect of their business: Brand.
You already have a brand. But is it helping your bottom line?
Brand isn’t a marketing issue. Well, it is, but for the purposes of this discussion it’s really an issue of your practice’s “soul.” Whether or not you know it, your practice already has a brand. And you had better know what it is.
Simply put, your brand is who you are, what you do and how you do it. Your brand begins with the parking lot, the door, the practice’s environment, the attitude and presence of the staff, the paperwork, your policies, signage, the doctors and nurses…everything. And all of these things are your responsibility, within your control and essential to your bottom line.
On the topics of practice profitability and billing processes, it’s sometimes easy to forget the forest for focusing so intently on the trees. In other words, using the best medical billing software available and improving your billing and collections processes doesn’t mean you can forget about your practice’s brand — the way patients experience and perceive the practice. Why? Because that experience must be healthy, positive and professional… or else it may be undermining your profitability goals.
The patient experience affects patients’ billing compliance…& loyalty.
The impact of brand on billing and collections isn’t a small issue. Remember, the first part of billing and collections is providing the service itself. A patient who has a bad — or even just a mediocre — experience at your practice may never come back. You can’t bill for subsequent visits if they never take place. At the same time, it is going to be much easier to collect from a patient who truly values the practice’s style and quality of care, responsiveness, accessibility, commitment, friendliness, etc.
If your doctors and staff engender a personal relationship with patients, you’ll have a roster full of patients who will not want to disappoint your team by failing to pay. While this won’t eliminate delinquency, it will do far more to reduce it than if your practice is operating without paying attention to how it is perceived/experienced by patients and referrers.
Optimize your ability to collect and be profitable by choosing — & living — your brand.
Discussion of improved billing and collections inevitably comes to the issue of patient compliance. There are many processes that can be improved, including collecting copays up front, clearly declaring payment responsibilities and policies, verifying addresses and insurance, offering payment options and more. But there are many other aspects to any practice for which improvement can further promote compliance. In addition to remembering to ask for the copay up front, staffers must remember to treat people warmly and maintain a compassionate professionalism.
Maintaining your practice’s brand also involves having a clear idea of what that brand is and ensuring that every team member is living it. Are you the low-cost provider or the quality provider? Are you the “cattle-call” clinic or the specialists dedicated to individualized care? Will every action from every staffer and provider engender compliance with policies and payments? Or will those actions create a distance that gives patients less of a sense of obligation to your practice?
These are questions related to vision and mission, which are vital to every business. As you consider ways to improve your medical billing and bottom line, make sure that your process-improvement efforts are also addressing the many things that affect how patients think and feel about you, because that does play a role in your bottom line.