Medical practices establish financial policies and procedures to control patient billing and the ability to collect money for services they provide. Successful billing practices start with thorough financial policies and procedures which explain patients’ payment responsibilities in terms that are easily understood.
An effective medical office financial policy is one that both staff members and practice patients can easily follow and understand. Patients need to understand their obligations and staff members need to know what is expected of the patients. All possible situations should be addressed by a good financial policy. This includes financial arrangements and payment plans, payments for services not covered by the insurance company, and a variety of other circumstances. The basic elements of an effective policy should inform patients how particular situations will be handled. Collection of a patient’s copayment, deductibles and any past-due balances should be addressed; as should payment for services that are not covered by a patient’s insurance company.
An effective policy should address how a practice handles prepayment for services they will provide and also any possibility for payment arrangements of unpaid balances on a patient’s account. If a practice offers charity care or discounts to patients with low incomes/financial need it should be stated in the financial policy. Finally, a practice’s financial policy should state their accepted forms of payment such as cash, checks, money orders, and credit or debit cards.
Clear medical office procedures that are consistently followed by staff members help support the office’s financial policy. When administrative staff members collect appropriate copayments and other fees as stated in the financial policy, they are helping to support the policy. When staff members become lax in their collection duties and neglect to follow established office procedures, patients may also have a tendency to forget that a payment may be due or that they owe a portion of their deduction for their visit. When office procedures do not support the financial policy, it may become difficult for a staff member to collect payment when due because procedures are not clearly written.
To ensure effective alignment of policies and procedures, medical practices should be certain that all staff members are trained thoroughly and understand what is expected of them by these procedures and policies. It is also important to educate patients about the billing process from start to finish.