If you’re responsible for patient invoice collection, then you’re familiar with excuses for why patients have not or cannot pay their bills and co-pays. Sometimes customers come up with excuses to delay payment, while in many other cases these are not excuses at all; they’re the truth. Whether the customer is trying to delay payment or not, you must be prepared to handle the conversation and make sure they can’t use, or don’t have to use, this excuse or explanation again in the future. Below are couple of the most common patient invoice collection excuses or explanations for late payment and what you can do to avoid them in the future.
“I didn’t know I owed this”
While this may be a ploy to get you to allow the customer to slide on this payment, it is usually the truth. Medical billing is complicated and customers may not fully understand their obligation to pay you. Yes, their Insurance companies will send them statements, but your office should send them statements as well so that they are clear on what is owed to you directly. Sending out monthly statements, reminder emails, and past due notices will help customers understand what they owe at all times. It is also a best practice to call customers before the invoice is due or, when they call to schedule an appointment, bring up any outstanding payments and let them know what is expected when they come in to see you.
“I don’t have any cash with me” or “I forgot my checkbook” or “I forgot my wallet”
If your office requires payment on the day of the appointment, be sure to get this information to the customer before their arrival so they’re prepared when they walk in the door. A week or so before their scheduled to be in the office, send an email or letter outlining what is expected of them when they arrive including payment methods, policies, and other important information. If they still show up without everything required of them, check your policy. Depending on your office regulations, you may be able to invoice them or you may need to ask them to reschedule their appointment. In situations like this, it is crucial to have a credit and collections policy in place to make sure the office staff is handling the conversation correctly.
If patients are allowed to pay after their visit, The American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP) suggests providing patients with pre-addressed, stamped envelopes and ask them to mail their payment into the office; a practice that the AAFP says has a 96% success rate with envelopes being return in an average of 14 days. Accepting credit or debit cards is another great way to turn the “I dont have any cash or a check with me” excuse into action. If the patient does not have the card with them, they can, if your policies allow it, ask them to call you with the card number once they get home. Another option is to enable online bill-pay to allow customers to safely and securely pay online.
Keeping track of all of this information and ensuring communications are being sent in a timely and effective manner to help you avoid the above situtions is tough, especially if you are required to do it all manually. A practice management or accounting system may allow you to track critical customer information, but it cannot help you take the steps to avoid these excuses in the future, catch mistakes before they lead to invoice disputes, or help you eliminate situations that might result in late payment. An accounts receivable management system can help you automate communications and make you more efficient and effective throughout the patient invoice collection process. Learn more about automating invoice collection in our resouce center, click below to get started.