The Value of Training Front Office Staff on Account Collections

As the evolving reimbursement landscape increases patients’ financial obligations, your organization is at a greater risk of bad debt and decreased patient satisfaction. More and more patients are signing up for high-deductible plans, so it is critical you have strong account collection practices to maximize revenue. And with the average US physician spending one-sixth of their working hours on administrative tasks including billing, it’s imperative that you rally your front office staff to lighten the load so that you don’t contribute to the estimated $125 billion left on the table from poor billing practices each year.ii

Making small changes to when and how you collect payment from a patient can reap big rewards for your bottom line and keep patients more satisfied. The question is how do you get your staff to rally behind this line of thinking. Implementing an efficient process for collecting what patients owe or having the best technology in the world won’t be enough if your staff can’t use it effectively or are not motivated to have informed financial conversations with patients.

In this article we will outline how to identify your collection strategy and get your staff on board to ensure the value is recognized across the board to increase your bottom line.

Your Staff

Partner with your staff to discuss ways to establish best practices to come up with a collection strategy. Here are three ways to get your staff on board.

  1. Gather Staff Input – Bring your team together to brainstorm ideas you can utilize to build a collection strategy everyone can get behind; we will get into specific collection options in the next section of this article.
  2. Share the bigger picture – It’s easy to delegate tasks and provide your staff with a check-off list, but by providing your staff with the bigger picture rather than just the pieces you are using a comprehensive approach to make their responsibilities more meaningful.
  3. Train your staff – Your staff can’t effectively contribute to your collection strategy if they are not motivated or confident in having informed financial conversations with patients. Implement policies and educate your staff on what these are.

Your Strategy

At the root of your collection strategy, patient satisfaction should hold precedence. Data shows that patients are willing and able to pay their out-of-pocket portion if informed of the cost up front.iii To support this line of thinking, you should be offering your patients a variety of ways to pay their bills. Here are three ideas to support your collection strategy.

  1. Self-pay discounts. Be understanding. If a patient is frustrated because insurance won’t reimburse for certain services they had the impression would be covered, hear their concerns and then do something about it. Offer a self-pay discount. Standard is a tiered discount ranging anywhere from 5-15% off.
  2. Pay-in-full discounts. If a patient shows interest in your payment options be sure to offer them a pay-in-full discount; this way you’ll motivate the patient to pay off their account completely. Patients without lingering balances will be more likely to return for follow-up services without fear of incurring additional charges. This can range anywhere from 5-20% off the full account balance.
  3. Stipulated payment plans – offer your patients the option of a payment plan. To avoid years of small payments, require a 20-25% down payment as part of the agreement.

The Value

Schedule a team meeting and make this process transparent and rewarding. Implement a reward system to motivate your staff on becoming fluent and helpful to your patient base. Here are a couple of ideas that we have seen work well in practices:

  1. Work with a trusted resource to set realistic billing goals. Identify a front office billing patient collection figure based on historical benchmarks and share this determined goal with staff. Quarterly goals are suggested as they incentivize performance to achieve any given quarter’s results. Then, offer a work days’ worth of PTO to the staff member who implemented the most account strategies.
  2. Your staff are unique. Before implementing your collection strategy, propose staff participate in a “Reward Request.” The idea will be to collect relevant incentive ideas from your staff- this can be as simple as an all-staff email requesting their input and then choosing ones that align with your practice’s operations and beliefs.

By effectively educating and communicating with your staff about account payment options available to your patients, staff will have the training and ability to discuss what’s available and improve returns.

Front office training is available to members of Fuel Medical Group. Developed by otolaryngology practice management experts, the curriculum is aligned with industry best practices to take your practice further.


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