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  • Writer's pictureRMK HOLDINGS INC.

Improving Patient Collections With Early-Out Collections

Updated: Nov 10, 2022

In an ideal world, patient bill collection would be fast and easy. Insurance companies won’t deny claims, and patients won’t delay paying their bills.

But in reality, many patients can’t pay out-of-pocket costs of as little as $100 nor have adequate insurance coverage for unexpected health crises. In fact, only 1 in 4 adults have more saved for emergencies now than 12 months ago. So, your medical office is left with the frustration of chasing payment when you should be focusing on patient care.

Fortunately, you can improve patient collections with early-out collections. And, in this article, you’ll learn:

  • What early collections is

  • Benefits of early-out collections

  • Early-out collections strategy tips

  • Other ways to improve patient collections

What Is Early Out Collections?

Early-out collections, also known as pre-collections, means getting patients to pay their medical bills before it’s written off as bad debt and sent to a bad debt collector aka a collection agency. It involves reaching out to patients to collect outstanding medical bills as quickly as possible.

The process is initiated early in the billing process – usually 30 to 60 days after billing. So, outstanding medical bills can be settled quickly before they are seriously overdue and your practice absorbs the holding costs of non-payment.

You can delegate early-out collections to some of your billing staff or outsource the task to an early-out collections business. What’s important is that you have a patient-centered early-out collections strategy to maintain a positive patient experience. Continue reading to learn more.

Benefits of Early-Out Collections

Early-out collections enables you to recover more revenue and prevent bad debts while minimizing unnecessary write offs. Here are some of the benefits of having an early-out collections strategy.

Help Patients Understand Their Bill

Many patients don’t make payments because they don’t understand their medical bills. Early-out collection agents can explain bills to patients who are stalling or ignoring payment because they don’t understand their bills – and who is responsible for payment.

Guide Patients Through the Payment Process

Patient collection is often delayed because the payment process is complex or is too rigid. Early-out collection agents can walk patients through the payment process and get them to pay right away on the phone.

Detect and Resolve Dispute Issues Quickly

Early-out collections can help prevent medical bill balance disputes. Agents can detect simple mistakes like potential coding or coverage errors that cause claim denials and result in disputes. So, less time and resources will be spent on resolving disputes.

Avoid Sending Bills to Bad Debt Collections

Early-out collections reduces the number of overdue bills sent to bad debt collections. As your agents work with patients to pay their outstanding bills, many accounts will be settled early. Hence, there will be fewer outstanding medical bills to write off as bad debt.

5 Tips To Improve Your Early Out Collection Strategy

Here are tips to enhance your early-out collections strategy to resolve more medical bills while ensuring that patient satisfaction remains high during this often stressful part of the revenue cycle.

1. Train Agents to be Empathetic

More patients would settle their overdue bills when collection agents show empathy. This means taking the time to listen to and understand patients’ financial situation and engaging them with respect.

So, ensure that your early-out collection agents possess both right and left brain skills. And, train them to communicate with empathy, handle objections diplomatically, and offer appropriate financial aid and discount.

2. Offer Payment Plans and Discounts

These can help incentivize patients to pay their outstanding bills. Patients who can’t afford to pay off their medical bills will appreciate a payment plan that allows them to pay in installments. And, offering discounts for early payments will encourage more patients to make payments quickly. Meet your patients where they are in THEIR financial journey to benefit your cash inflow.

3. Provide Convenient Payment Options

Most patients don’t have the time to mail a check or come to your facility to pay in person. Making it easier for patients to pay will increase the success of your early-out collections effort. So, when you reach out for early-out collections, provide convenient payment options, such as paying online or over the phone.

4. Use Digital Tools for Payment Reminders

The traditional method of sending reminder snail mail to patients isn’t bad. However, most patients may never get around to opening your mail. In today’s digital world, you need tools like text and email reminders, and app push notifications to get more patients to respond to early-out collections.

5. Utilize Your Practice Name

Imagine a patient receiving an early-out collections email from a company they do not recognize. They likely would think it’s a fraud email and not respond or take action. Thus, when outsourcing your early-out collections, ensure the agency you hire functions as an arm of your practice and presents itself with your practice’s name when communicating with patients.

Ways To Improve Patient Collections Before Early-Out Collections

You can improve patient collections before your next step of early-out collections. Here are some ways to increase the chances of patients paying their bills on time so you don’t have to reach out later.

Collect Before Providing Services

Many practices don’t do this, but you can collect payment before providing medical services. No rule says patients should pay only after receiving care.

Granted, this isn’t always feasible. You may not be sure yet what particular services they’ll need and how much they would cost, especially in emergency cases. Nevertheless, you can collect at least a 50% down payment at the point of rendering service.

Communicate Bill Details Clearly

Be transparent with pricing. Ensure patients understand the possible cost of the services they’ll receive. For instance, if they’re having non-emergency surgery that is covered by their insurance but the anesthesiologist or their facility is out-of-network, let them know beforehand.

Also, when you send medical bills, clearly state what they’re paying for. And, provide contact details or channels to reach you if they have questions or need additional information.

Validate Patients’ Payment Details

Verifying patient payment details during registration can help prevent patient collection delays later on. Confirm that patients’ credit cards are active and check that their insurance will cover the services they need. Adopt balance transparency protocols to prevent your patients from feeling blind sided later on.

Outsourcing Your Early-Out Collections To Speed Up Patient Collection

Early-out collections helps bridge the gap between providing claim submission and initial patient collection procedures. It can increase medical bill payments and reduce bad debt write-offs dramatically. But, if you’re like most health providers, you don’t have the time to chase patients to pay their medical bills during the initial collection attempts.

Although you can delegate some of your billing staff to early-out collections, outsourcing the task to an agency may be a better option. Working with an agency will reduce patient collections costs, such as the cost of training, tech tools and resources used for early out collections.

However, ensure that you work with a professional early-out collections agency that will represent you well. This is because if patients have a bad experience with your back end, including billing services, it’ll reflect poorly on your practice.

Resolve Patient Collection Issues Early With RMK

When you partner with us for your early-out collections, your patients’ outstanding medical bills will be resolved sooner rather than later. We’ll tackle your slow to pay account issues including third-party claims and small balances.

Whether an ambulance transportation, physician practice or other professional fee healthcare provider, reach out to us at RMK for a free consult.

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