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Best Practices for Collecting Patient Past-Due Balances

Collect more past-due bills from patients with these tips
Read Time: 2.5
Aug 31, 2021

Unpaid balances are an unfortunate part of the medical industry. Every practice, hospital, and clinic will have patients who haven’t paid their medical bills. Whether the patients haven’t paid their bills because they can’t or because they don’t want to, collecting past-due balances isn’t typically a pleasant process.

Fortunately, there are some best practices you can follow that will help to make the past-due balance collection process a bit easier for both you and your patients.

Train Your Front-Desk Staff

Medical receptionist speaking to patient

Your front-desk staff are the first and last people that your patients have contact with when they come to your practice. When a patient first checks in, your front-desk staff is already pulling up the patient’s information to confirm details and insurance information. This is also a good opportunity for your front-desk staff to look up any past-due balances the patient may have.

If a patient does have a past-due balance, your front-desk staff should ask them how they would like to pay the bill. Asking whether or not they want to pay will most likely result in the patient saying that they don’t want to pay.

Assign One Person to Bill Collection Duty

Asking for payment when a patient checks in at the front desk isn’t always enough to collect on past-due balances. Sometimes, you need to call patients to collect. Assigning this task to one member of your front-desk staff who has both good phone etiquette and the ability to be firm with patients can help to improve your success rate.

Look for Alternative Payment Options

Many patients don’t have past-due balances because they just don’t feel like paying. Sometimes, they can’t afford to pay. For example, if a family has credits attached to one member, those credits could be transferred to another family member to cover the costs. Any alternative payment options that could help a patient pay when they otherwise couldn’t will benefit both the practice and the patient.

Send the Bill to Collections When Necessary

Final notice medical bill

There are some patients who just won’t pay no matter what you do. In a case like this, it actually may be better to give up rather than to continue chasing a delinquent patient account. Every phone call, letter, and other attempt to collect the past-due bill will actually cost your practice money and uses up your staff’s time. It’s a good idea to decide ahead of time exactly how many letters and phone calls you will make to a patient before you give up.

You shouldn’t give up too soon because if the bill goes to collections, you won’t see very much of the money. But eventually, the costs of continuing to pursue a patient outweigh the potential gains.

Don’t Be Afraid to Dismiss a Patient

No one likes losing customers, which is what patients are for a medical practice. But if a patient is delinquent with their payments and no amount of chasing them gets them to pay, you should know when it’s time to let them go. A patient that isn’t paying isn’t bringing your practice money anyway, so dismissing them opens up appointments for new, paying patients.

Make the Consequences Clear to Patients

When you have patients that haven’t paid, you’ll need to let them know the consequences of continuing to not pay their bills. In communications to patients that have an outstanding balance, you should let them know how many warnings they get before the bill is turned over to collections. The patient should also be made aware that they will be dismissed from your practice if they don’t pay. It’s also important to stick to the consequences that you have outlined to the patient. Threatening collections and dismissal won’t have any impact if you don’t actually follow through.

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