With or without medical billing software, collections is often challenging. And it’s made more difficult by a practice’s inability to leave pertinent details on patients’ answering machines. Let’s face it, “Please return our call” isn’t the collections specialist’s most useful tool. That’s why it’s so important to obtain written permission from every patient to leave detailed voicemails. Signed consent benefits your medical billing and maximizes the usefulness of your practice’s medical billing software by permitting staff to give details and use language that motivates compliance.
Make it easier to collect from patients who can and will pay
As you know, the reasons patients don’t pay on time are vast and various. They range from oversight and forgetfulness to competing financial interests and emergencies, prolonged joblessness and just plain poor handling of finances. So on any given day your billing staff are dealing with patients who can’t pay, some who would prefer not to, and others who simply haven’t yet.
Without a signed confidential communications request form, your medical billing staff has only the barest-minimum ability to motivate patients who, although delinquent, are otherwise willing and able to pay. For example, a person who is over-busy and under a great deal of stress may be unlikely to respond if your practice’s message is as limited as “important issue” and “please call.” But if your staffers are able to leave details that help the patient realize the importance or urgency, you have a better chance of receiving payment from this patient without expending additional labor.
Let missed calls still achieve most of their objectives
Of course, leaving detailed phone messages isn’t just a benefit for collecting from people who have forgotten to pay on time. It has a far more fundamental benefit: It makes it possible for outbound billing calls to still fulfill some of their goals even when patients don’t answer the phone.
The objectives of your outbound billing calls are to provide pertinent information, motivate the patient to comply and obtain the amount due. But if your billing staff member reaches a voicemail system, the practice fails to achieve all three of these goals if you don’t have written permission to leave HIPAA-protected information on voicemail. With signed consent, on the other hand, you can still inform and attempt to motivate compliance. Obviously, the potential value of the detailed message is greater than the value of expending roughly the same amount of labor to just request a return call.
Maximize the benefits of your medical billing software
Medical billing software is, in the simplest terms, a way of managing highly detailed financial information for the purpose of maximizing the practice’s ability to collect every earned dollar. It captures, maintains, collates and analyzes details — details that matter to the practice, the patient, insurance carriers and governing bodies. Billing software also makes it possible to communicate these details… and reduces the labor historically involved in this task. But phone calls are still part of the reality of medical billing and collections, and your billing software can’t make those calls. So staffers make them. It only makes sense to have patients’ written consent to leave important — and compelling — details on voicemail. That way, the practice gets more from both the labor expended and the information managed by your billing software.
Motivate with detail and more compelling messages
Being able to leave specific details is itself potentially motivating to some patients with delinquent accounts. One example: A patient who thinks he owes $500 may be less likely to “please call us back as soon as possible” than to mail a check after learning he owes much less than he though. Also, many people respond better and more quickly to quantitative information that they can use to draw more tangible conclusions. Leaving detailed information can also increase the likelihood of compliance after the next call or letter. If someone needs two detailed calls (or just one) before they pay, you don’t want the current phone call to count for nothing. Yet, permission to leave detailed messages also allows staffers to leave messages that include words that help motivate the desired response.
Every practice needs to decide its comfort threshold when it comes to these response-driven lines. And it’s recommended to obtain legal advice about what is and is not permitted by HIPAA and other regulations. But the point here is that signed consent gives you some leeway to say things like “this account may be sent to third-party collections professionals” or “could potentially increase the amount you ultimately have to.” It’s also an opportunity to appeal to patients’ sense of appreciation of the practice’s care and service by saying things like “we’re really trying to find ways to help you” or “we wanted to give you another chance because we understand your situation.”
Free your billing software and people to succeed in their goals
These days, more and more practices have made the communications consent authorization an essential part of the new-patient packet. And billing is a primary reason. Information collected and processed by your medical billing software should not be helpful only on phone calls that are answered by the patient. If your medical billing staffers are free to leave detailed voicemails, they can impart information that helps motivate the desired response: Payment. At the same time, they also have the opportunity to remind patients of potential costs and consequences and to deliver the motivating messages they’re accustomed to delivering when patients actually pick up the phone.