There are five things to consider as you reopen your medical office: Reevaluate your budget; Get your staff’s buy-in; How to actively bring patients back into the office; Continuing to use Telemedicine and other online tools; and be flexible.
As the curve flattens and restrictions around the country loosen up, medical practices are slowly reopening their doors for non-essential services. But reopening doesn’t mean business will resume as usual. Every industry is making changes as we navigate a “new normal.”
Many of those changes center on social distancing guidelines, but there are other matters to consider as well. Here are some details about the strategies to keep in mind as you reopen.
Reevaluate Your Budget
Government restrictions may be lifting, but medical practices are not going to bounce back immediately. Any financial goals you had in place for 2020 likely won’t be met this year.
Some budgetary adjustments will be necessary. Here are just a few ideas:
- Check in with vendors, landlords, and creditors to discuss any accommodations they may have for cash-flow disruptions
- Consider delaying payment of bonuses and other discretionary payments
- Seek aid from government economic relief packages and loans for small businesses and front-line workers. Stay informed on what your options are, as changes are ongoing.
This goes without saying, but make sure you’re up to date on patient billing and payments, too, including telemedicine visits. If you have patients who need extra time to pay their bills, EZClaim customers can set up a payment plan for them using BillFlash PlanPay.
Get Your Staff’s Buy-In
Before you start bringing patients back in, your entire medical staff needs to understand your new policies and be on board with enforcing them. They need to be reassured that their safety is a top priority, as well.
It’s been a difficult few months for front-line healthcare workers, and will continue to be stressful in the months going forward. Do what you can to acknowledge their hard work and dedication.
Actively Bring Patients Back to the Office
Some people are eager to get out of their homes and into public spaces again, while others plan to shelter in place a while longer. Either way, your patients aren’t going to return in droves. Many are less comfortable going back to a doctor’s office, so be proactive about making your patients feel safe enough to return.
Americans have become experts on how viruses spread over the past few months, so anything you’re doing to clean and sanitize your office should be visible. Affixing physical distancing floor markers, procuring enough PPE for your staff, and installing hand sanitizer stations is a good start. Show your patients what you’re doing to protect them; simply telling them what you’re doing when they aren’t around won’t be enough.
As you communicate your new policies to patients, be aware that they may be feeling overwhelmed. Be transparent and connect with them on a personal level. Don’t be afraid to show your human side; otherwise, your office will be just another place with a long list of rules to follow.
Keep Using Telemedicine and Other Online Tools
The technology that got you through stay-at-home orders can continue to support you long term. Telehealth isn’t going away. Plus, patients will still want contactless payment options.
Evaluate what has worked over the last few months and incorporate them as part of your new normal.
For example, you may want to have a plan in place regarding which patients get priority with Telehealth. At-risk individuals will still need to stay home as much as possible, so make sure Telehealth will still be an option for them.
Another tool that has been valuable during the pandemic is contactless payments. COVID-19 has changed the way people are paying—for the good. They want the option to pay their bills online, or directly from their mobile devices. Some patients will even consider switching providers if another practice offers them online payment options their current provider doesn’t have.
EZClaim easily accommodates a variety of payment preferences with its BillFlash integration, from online SelfPay to sending pre-visit charges for telemedicine visits (LinkPay). Sign up for a demo here. You can try BillFlash, at no cost, for 30 days.
Local outbreaks may still happen. Many households have lost income. Patients have different preferences and needs regarding where an encounter happens and how they pay.
Things are still changing by the week. As much as we all want a new, consistent normal, we need to be prepared to continue to make adjustments as needed. Ultimately, it is your patients and your practice’s financial health that will benefit from your ability to adjust with the times.
BillFlash, a fully integrated component and trusted partner of EZClaim, offers a variety of revenue cycle management services that have served EZClaim customers well for many years, as well as through the COVID-19 pandemic. For more information or to see a demo, contact BillFlash at 435-940-9123, email them at GetPaid@BillFlash.com, or visit their website at BillFlash.com.
For detailed product features or general information about EZClaim, you can either schedule a one-on-one consultation with our sales team, view a recorded demo, or download a FREE 30-day trial right now.
For general information about EZClaim, visit our website at ezclaim.com/
Telemedicine was already growing in popularity prior to the onset of the Coronavirus pandemic. So, as the adoption rate increases, EZClaim clients may have questions about sending telemedicine charges and getting paid for Telehealth visits.
Telehealth challenges can range from issues with technology to getting paid. With Telehealth becoming the norm for many doctor-patient visits, it is important to have a thoughtful approach in place regarding collecting patient payments. To stay in business, you have to get paid for the work you are doing. So, establishing a process for Telehealth consultations is vital to your business, and it should be a top priority to build a successful program from beginning to end.
The answers to the following questions will help set the baseline for how to collect patient payments for
- What is my process for charging for copays?
- How and when do I collect outstanding balances?
For example, if you collect a payment before an in-person visit, you should collect a payment before a Telehealth visit, too. There is no need to re-create your process completely. Just change what is needed to match your current in-office routine.
Sending Charges Before a Telehealth Visit
A simple way to send pre-visit charges to patients is to provide them with a link that takes them directly to the payment site. EZClaim’s medical billing solution is integrated with BillFlash LinkPay, which enables customers to provide a payment for the upcoming visit. So, before the Telehealth session begins, the practice simply sends a link to their patient via an e-mail or text, making the appointment confirmation and the payment processing part of the check-in process. After the payment transaction is complete, it will immediately show up on the practice’s BillFlash report. LinkPay is designed to be easy to use, and doesn’t require patients to remember a login or a chart number.
Here’s how EZClaim enables the process through BillFlash:
- Prior to Telehealth visit, the patient is sent a link to pay through LinkPay, and another link to join the Telehealth call
- Patient pays the required amount through LinkPay, which is immediately confirmed and processed
- Patient joins the Telehealth session
- Results and follow-up are completed electronically
- Insurance billing is completed
- Patient receives paper statement or eBill notification for any remaining balance
- Patient is directed to pay the remaining balance online at MyProviderLink.com
Automate What Can Be Automated
With so many changes taking place in healthcare, a great way to help protect the financial stability of your practice is to automate what can be automated. This saves your staff time, and decreases your cost of doing business.
One way to do this is to set up automatic payment plans for patients, particularly for those who have been hit hard by the economic impact of COVID-19. A payment plan is a good way of keeping the revenue flowing in, and it shows your patients that your are compassionate and willing to help them through these unprecedented times.
BillFlash also securely stores payment information, so patients will not need to re-enter their information every time they pay a new bill.
As you continue to adjust to Telehealth going forward, BillFlash can simplify patient billing and payments significantly and help getting paid for Telehealth visits.
So, for a LIMITED TIME (during May 2020), EZClaim customers can try BillFlash statement and eBill services for FREE for 30 days. Click on this link for more details about BillFlash or try it out for the next month.
For additional information, call BillFlash at 435-940-9123, or contact EZclaim’s support team at 877.650.0904 or email@example.com.
[Contributed by James Easley VP, Marketing NexTrust Inc.]
Medical billing managing collections during COVID-19 will be different than it was in the past. It has already changed a lot about how medical practices operate, and in a short amount of time. One thing that hasn’t changed, however, is that practices need to get paid in order to continue operating. This includes sending patients to collections when necessary.
Managing late or unpaid bills during economic uncertainty may require a different approach than you’re used to. Before you send patients to collections, make sure you take these steps first.
- Be upfront about payment expectations from the beginning
- You should already have a strategy in place regarding informing patients how much they owe for services. Stick to it. Many people are hoping for leeway on certain bills due to the economic impact of COVID-19, but gently remind your patients that for essential healthcare services to continue, practices need to keep revenue flowing, and that means billing will continue as usual.
- Set up payment plans
- If a patient is unable to pay a bill in full, help them set up a payment plan. BillFlash PlanPay lets you set up scheduled, automatic payments to be paid over a set period of time. This is the best option for both you and the patient because:
- The patient has a more manageable bill
- Your practice is more likely to be paid in full
- Setting up a payment plan shows your patients you’re willing to work with them. That’s usually all they need to be assured that you care.
- Send out multiple reminders
- Use whatever resources you have—email, phone, text, mail—to contact patients about balances they owe. Be courteous in your reminders, but firm. Most patients want to pay their medical bills. Often all they need is a simple reminder and an easy way to make the payment.
- BillFlash helps you manage all of this during the pre-collections phase to help ensure you are paid as quickly and completely as possible.
If none of these steps work, then it’s time to get collections involved.
What to Include in a Collections Letter
Include all the facts of the visit. This includes:
- Date of service
- Service provided
- Amount patient owes
- Payment options
Tone of the Letter
The right tone in your letter can do more to ensure payment and a continued relationship with the patient than anything else you include. You need to convey a sense of urgency, but without being overbearing and intimidating.
A few tips to keep in mind:
- Empathize with the patient. Simply saying “We understand you may be experiencing financial difficulties at this time” is more likely to get a response than a curt “final warning” threat.
- Explain why it is important for the patient to pay anyway. Example: Like any other business, our practice relies on revenue to thrive. In order to continue to provide these valuable healthcare services, patients need to pay their bills in full and on time.
- Offer a payment plan. Give patients one more opportunity to pay their bill in smaller chunks over a period of time to avoid having their account sent to collections.
We’re all experiencing difficulties during this global pandemic. The only way to get through it is to work together. Being upfront with patients about payment expectations and being willing to work with patients who have fallen on hard times will help all of us through this global health crisis.
BillFlash Collections Services can help you in managing collections during COVID-19, and simplify and streamline all your other collection processes for you, saving you the headache of exporting, importing, and working with a disconnected agency.
As an EZclaim ‘preferred’ partner, BillFlash is fully integrated with the EZclaim Premier billing application. For more details, view this informational video: https://www.rcm.billflash.com/ezclaim For more information about the EZclaim billing solution, view our website: https://ezclaim.com/
This article about new patient billing methods was written by Angie Carter with NexTrust.
Communication is easier than it’s ever been, but a lot of practices aren’t taking full advantage of two of today’s most effective mediums of communication: email and texting. Patients, like all other consumers, spend a lot of time on their phones; it’s where they keep in touch with friends and family, as well as businesses they work with regularly.
Most practices rely heavily on phone calls to contact their patients about appointment reminders, insurance issues, etc. But many adults now prefer to communicate via email or text. Often a quick phone call will do the trick, but email and texting gets your foot in the door a lot more often. Furthermore, people are far more likely to respond to a text or email than a voicemail.
Here are a few ways to build your contact list at your practice to improve communication with patients, ensuring greater patient satisfaction and better cash flow.
- Collect cellphone numbers & email addresses during new patient registration.
Consider making these required fields. Allow the option to fill out more than one email address or mobile number as well, since most households have several. It would also be helpful to quickly explain why you need this information. BillFlash allows you to send out regular statements and eBills through email and text, and you can also quickly update your patients on any last-minute changes happening at your practice.
If you have a newsletter or regularly send out practice updates, make sure patients know about these as well. This is another opportunity to ensure you have the information you need to better communicate with your patients.
- Ask for an email address & cellphone number any time you confirm an appointment.
Even if your current patients have already given you this information, use appointment confirmations as an opportunity to verify the information you have on file is current. Email addresses change all the time, so it’s crucial to ensure they’re up to date so you know your messages are being received. And for patients who haven’t yet provided this information, this is a good time to tout the benefits of being digitally connected.
- Encourage mail-only patients to go paperless.
A huge barrier to patients paying their bills on time—or at all—is that it’s often not as simple to pay a medical bill as it is to pay, say, a utility bill. BillFlash simplifies this process tremendously, both for the patients and your practice. By providing an email address and cellphone number, patients can more easily stay current on their medical bills and procedures.
- Ask patients to provide feedback on your website.
Give your patients a space to express their thoughts at their convenience. Include a form on your website for patients to fill out—which would include their email address and phone number—and add the info they provide to your database. You could also post signs throughout your office encouraging patients to visit your website to provide feedback about the care they received that day.
- Add cellphone number/email to check-in sheet.
Most practices require patients to sign in whenever they come in for an appointment. Consider adding a column or two that asks for their email and cellphone number. At the top of the column you could include a note that says something like “Want to receive appointment reminders via text or email?” to reiterate the benefit patients will receive by providing this information.
- Offer patients an incentive to provide their email address & cellphone number.
People love free stuff—that’s a given. Try running a fishbowl incentive every few months. All patients would need to do is drop their email address and/or cellphone number into a bowl and they’ll be entered into a drawing to win a prize. And why reward just the patients? Incentivize your office staff to collect this information as well.
Everyone has a cellphone number and email address, but it does take some effort to collect them. But it’s effort that rewards you many times over, as this makes it easier to keep patients in the loop and ensure you get paid. BillFlash makes it easy to automate patient billing and payments—including sending reminders via email or text—to improve the financial health of your practice.
BillFlash is integrated into the EZclaim billing application. Click here to view a video that discusses the details.
For more information about new patient billing methods and sending electronic bill notifications through text and email, contact EZclaim or their statement and payment services partner, BillFlash, at 435-940-9123 or firstname.lastname@example.org
As Patient Payment Responsibility continues to increase, sending patients to collections efficiently & effectively is more critical to the financial health of your practice than ever before. Here are some helpful tips to optimize your patient collections process.
- Communicate your collection policy upfront
- Integrate your collections process with your billing
- Consider offering discounts for self-pay patients
- Accept multiple forms of payment
- Offer multiple payment options
- Require patients to make “good faith” payments
Practices that employ the following practices can help prevent sending patients to collections or make the collections process much more efficient and effective.
1.Communicate your collection policy upfront
Prior to patient appointments, clearly communicate your collection policy. This helps the patient plan ahead to pay in full in the specified time period. This is especially important for patients that must meet a deductible or coinsurance amounts towards the out of pocket expenses. When patients are aware in advance, they are more likely to make some of their payment upfront. In addition to pre-visit communications, specify your collections with signs in your office, intake forms, information documents and on your website.
2. Integrate your collections process with your billing
The current process to send patients to collections is tedious, time-consuming and prone to error and miscommunications. That’s because staff must constantly and manually pull lists of patients eligible for collections and send all the necessary patient information to the agency. Plus, all the complex back and forth communications, followed by posting accounting for the payments.
Leveraging an automated patient billing system like BillFlash, you can create rules based on aging and minimums that queue up patients eligible for collections and send all the necessary information to begin the collections process. Practices can manage the entire collections process right in the patient billing system including setting rules, approving accounts for collections, and reports. To learn more, call NexTrust BillFlash at 435-940-9123 or visit collections.billflash.com
3. Consider offering discounts for self-pay patients
While insured patients receive discounts through their insurance provider, self-pay patients are responsible for their full payment. As an incentive to pay bills in a timely manner, offering self-pay patients a discount to pay in a timely fashion could reduce accounts sent to collections, improve the patient payment experience, and help improve your cash flow.
4. Accept Multiple Forms of Payment
Limitations in accepted payment methods and payment options can be a liability for your practice in getting paid quickly, and sometimes, getting paid at all. You can remove these barriers by incorporating payment systems that make it easy to accept all card types as well as payment plans. The BillFlash Billing and Payment system lets you offer these payment options to your patients simply. Patient billing and payments can then be synced with EZClaim because of the existing integration with BillFlash.
5. Offer Multiple Payment Options
Patients may find themselves in collections because out of pocket expenses are often much higher than they expected and can sometimes be thousands of dollars. Offering various payment methods and payment plans improves the patient experience and overall satisfaction.
Limitations in accepted payment methods and payment options can be a liability for your practice in getting paid quickly, and sometimes, getting paid at all. You can remove these barriers by incorporating payment systems that make it easy to accept all card types as well as payment plans. The BillFlash Billing and Payment system lets you offer these payment options to your patients simply. Patient billing and payments can then be streamlined because of the existing integration with BillFlash.
6. Require patients to make ‘good faith’ payments
If a patient is not paying their balance in full, requiring them to pay a portion of the payment is a helpful first step in keeping their commitment to fully meeting their financial responsibility. These small steps not only make the debt more manageable for patients but creates payment momentum for future payments so that at 90 or 120 days they owe much less and are less likely to be candidates for collections.
With increasingly more patient payment responsibility, the risk for patients being sent collections can rise as well. So, helping your patients avoid collections and optimizing your collections process when collections become necessary, can bring big financial returns
Call NexTrust today 435-940-9123 or email at email@example.com or go to collections.billflash.com to learn how collections are now integrated with automated patient billing and payments to improve the financial health of your practice.
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9 Signs It’s Time to Outsource Your Medical Billing and Coding.
Contributed by James Easley, VP, Marketing of NexTrust, Inc
Should a practice outsource their billing and coding or manage it in-house? This is one of the most important business decisions for practices to get right. Which is the better option for your practice? Here are nine signs that it may be more financially beneficial to outsource medical billing.
1. Do You Lack Visibility into Billing and Payment Metrics?
Do you know your key financial metrics and how to improve them? Many practices are not aware of their actual revenue metrics which are the “vitals” for the financial health of their practice. For example, only about 35% of practices appeal denied claims, which means most are losing out on thousands of dollars every month.
Without the ability to measure these financial vitals, it’s difficult to know how to improve. Does your practice have a financial analyst as well as the staff with the skills to identify problems and make improvements? If not, practices should consider looking at external experts to provide these metrics and are able to make the necessary billing improvements.
2. Is Your Revenue Decreasing?
For practices that are aware of their billing and payment metrics, are you seeing your collections decrease? Is the time it takes to collect increasing? Unfortunately, this is more and more common among practices due to the ever-changing complexity of the insurance billing processes. Outsourcing is not the only solution, however fixing this problem internally can often be costlier and time-consuming than outsourcing.
You need a solid income stream to keep your clinic operating effectively. If billing mistakes, coding complexities, and reduced reimbursements or denials have negatively affected your collections, then you need to consider outsourcing your billings and collections to keep your company from falling victim to a bad revenue stream.
Not only does this keep your business running optimally, but it also allows your personnel to focus on other responsibilities and ensure quality customer service.
3. Are Billing Errors and Rejected Claims Costing You Money?
The American Academy of Family Physicians reports that a 5-10% denial rate is the industry average. To be financially sound, practices should do what’s necessary to keep this rate below 5%. Because high claim denial rates require additional costs and staff time to correct and resubmit, many practices have found the outsourcing resolves this issue and provides higher net income overall.
4. Are You at Risk of Staff Absence or Turnover?
While every industry faces the challenges of staff turnover, the effects are often felt acutely among medical practices when billers leave. Since claim processing is integral to the lifeblood of a practice, replacements or new additions to your billing department unavoidably result in a slowdown in claims processing. Practices can remove this variability and risk through outsourcing their billing and pushing the staffing burden to the third-party. Practices then rely on a team that can ensure the work of claim processing continues without interruption.
5. Are Staff Billing and Coding Skills and Training Insufficient?
Many practices take on the responsibility of hiring, managing and training Internal billing and coding staff. This works well in many practices. However, if billing and coding staff is under-experienced or not current on compliance and regulatory issues, practices must cost-effectively provide regular training to get and keep them current. Practices that prefer not to take on these burdens can find a simple solution in outsourcing.
6. Has In-house Billing Become Too Expensive?
Considering the costs of hiring, salary, benefits and administrative costs of in-house medical billers, practices may find it costs less overall to outsource their billing.
In addition to employee costs, practices must purchase equipment, software, and more. In-house billing costs can quickly add up. Practices should compare internal costs to outsourcing to determine both the best operational and cost-effective methods for billing and coding management.
7. Do You Have New Providers or a New Practice?
Newer practices may find it difficult to navigate the complexities of medical billing and coding. These new practices or practices with new providers need to ensure they are focused on growing their business and providing a high level of care.
Delegating important responsibilities to a trusted third-party allows new practices and providers to do just that. Outsourcing your medical billing during this time can relieve the burdens of hiring, training or managing a team of new billing employees.
8. Is Your Clinic Growing?
A growing practice can have similar challenges as a new clinic. Reputation is critical when growing your business and ensuring high-quality patient attention and care can become more difficult.
As your staff will likely be tasked with more responsibilities and duties during this growth period, why not ensure they can still provide meaningful services by taking some of those administrative duties off their hands. Your personnel will thank you for this by continuing to provide quality care to patients, which in turn will help you to continue growing.
9. Is Your Attention Divided Between Patients and Running a Business?
Overseeing internal billing and coding requires a substantial amount of effort, time, and expertise. Without dedicated staff to handle this, the responsibility can fall on the shoulders of clinic owners, physicians, or other administrative staff.
This can mean less time focusing on patients or other relationships and practice management responsibilities. When practices outsource the billing process, physicians and administrators are free to focus on providing quality healthcare services to patients.
If you found yourself nodding your head to one or more of these questions, it’s worth taking some time to learn if outsourcing would be better for your practice. NexTrust offers both patient and insurance billing services that not only improve revenue but allow providers and staff to focus on providing the highest level of care.
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Call NexTrust today 435-940-9123 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org to learn how our Patient Billing and Insurance Billing services can improve the financial health of your practice.
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