Photograph of a physiotherapist holding a debit machine to receive payment from a patient

8 Tips for Discussing Payment with Patients

October 3, 2018 | Article | By: Sara Hodgins

There are a lot of things that go into running a successful clinic: great treating and administrative staff, good location, the right marketing tools. Oh, and of course money!

Whether or not we like it, money is a critical piece in running a successful clinic. That makes collecting money from patients and insurance companies such a critical piece of running your clinic. You can have the best staff in the world, but if you don’t have any cash flow, you won’t be able to stay open long.

But the money piece of the business is so awkward to talk about! There are so many insurance companies with different rules about what they will and will not cover that it makes it seem almost impossible to bill anyone but the patient directly. But then again, it can be awkward to discuss money with the patient too; after all, they are just looking for some relief from their pain.

Well, you can breathe a sigh of relief because direct billing to insurance companies isn’t as overwhelming as you would first think, and it can go a considerable way in increasing patient satisfaction and building customer loyalty! We’ve already gone into detail about the benefits of direct billing with our webinar here, so let’s skip ahead and review some tips on how to talk to your patients about the money-side of their treatment:

Double-check your patient’s registration information

When a patient has coverage through an insurance company, whether it is government, motor vehicle, work-related, or third-party benefits, there are claim numbers, injury codes and policy numbers that need to be right, not to mention their personal information like name and date of birth. Ensuring that this information is correct from day one will reduce the likelihood of rejected claims, and the need to go to the patient for the money down the road.

Ask about their insurance plan details

Insurance plans, especially third-party benefits, can have a lot of different rules. Your patient should be familiar with what their benefit limits are, but you need to ask about their plan in detail. “Do you have coverage for physiotherapy?” will not cut it. Check out our nine simple questions to ask a third party insurance company for more details!

Communicate your patient’s insurance details with them

Once you’ve checked into their insurance coverage, go over the details with them to ensure that they understand them and there won’t be any surprises down the line. If they are going to have a co-pay each visit, tell them so they won’t be shocked when you ask them for the money.

Work the patient’s coverage allowances into your treatment plans

A patient's benefits coverage should not dictate their course of treatment, but it's naive to believe that it doesn’t affect how much treatment they will come in for. If your patient voices concerns about being able to complete their treatment plan due to insurance coverage limits, talk to them about alternative options like:

  • including more at-home exercises
  • cross-referring to other clinicians
  • increasing patient education during visits

All of these options empower your patient to make informed decisions about their treatment which builds their trust in you and forms the basis for a long-term relationship built on trust.

Use the right tools to track coverage details and notify you of outstanding balances

When selecting a billing and scheduling software, you will want one that tracks even the most minute details of insurance plans, gives you the ability to add reminders to patient’s appointments, and also have the schedule tell you when there is an outstanding balance and when that balance has been paid.

Communicate outstanding balances regularly with your patients

Use your billing software to pull accounts receivable reports on a weekly (or at least monthly) basis. These reports will allow you to see any unpaid accounts right away so you can contact patients immediately to follow up on payment. When asking a patient to pay their outstanding account, be sure to or email them early on, the longer you wait to follow up the less likely you are to recoup the funds. 

Develop and enforce a payment policy

There are many common payment policies clinics use, here are some of the most popular ones we see:

A pay-per-visit policy

As the name suggests, a patient pays after each visit. By far the most commonly used payment policy, a pay-per-visit model is easy to communicate with patients, easy to enforce (patients pay on their way out of the clinic after treatment) and easy to stay on top of accounts. 

A pay-up-front policy

With an up-front payment policy, patients pay for a whole week's worth of treatments at once. This can help keep patients on their treatment plan, and if you have a large volume clinic, this option might be right for you as it means patients can leave right after their appointment, no waiting to pay at the front desk. However, there are drawbacks, patients may not have the money up-front, it can be challenging to reimburse for missed or cancelled appointments, and it might be hard to get patient buy-in for this payment model. 

A pay-at-the-end policy

There's also the pay-at-the-end model where a patient pays for their treatments at the end of the week. Much like the pay-u-front model, patients won't have to wait at the front desk after every appointment, but the same drawbacks are there too. One big issue with the pay-at-the-end model is patients may cancel their last appointment making it hard to collect payment.

Be confident!

You are a clinician; you are trained in how to treat people’s injuries and help them feel better; you likely were not trained on how to talk to people about money. But, by speaking with your patients with the same confidence, you exude when telling them about their injury and what they need to do to get better, you’ll get more buy-in from them. If you feel unsure about talking about payment plans or money, practice! Practice with other staff members, with family or friends, or even in front of the mirror. If you are confident in your approach to talking about money with your patients, like you are in treating them, you will find the conversations about payment go a lot smoother.

Discussing and collecting payments from patients doesn’t have to be a dreaded chore. Just remember, you are providing them with a much-needed service, and keeping the doors of your clinic open so you can continue to do so, you have to be open with them about the cost and expectations that you have for payment. 

Do you have any other tips on how to best talk about money with patients? Let us know in the comments section below!