The Intake

Insights for those starting, managing, and growing independent healthcare practices

Top 3 benefits of collecting payments at the time of service

Time-of-service payments can lead to more predictable revenue. A boon for independent practices.

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The patient experience goes beyond the interaction between a doctor and the individual, it starts the minute a patient schedules an appointment and doesn’t end until they have paid for the cost of care. 

Creating a seamless process is key to building a trusting patient/provider relationship. One factor impacting the process is payment collections – this not only plays a role in the patient experience but also impacts your practice’s bottom line.

The snail mail payment process

Healthcare providers traditionally address patient collections after an appointment has occurred and long after a patient has left the office. When a patient receives a bill in the mail, a fair amount of time has often passed since the time of service. This method also typically requires some effort on the patient’s part such as calling the office to provide payment details, logging onto a website to enter account information or making a payment by mail – if paid at all. This leaves many paper bills lost in a pile with billing staff having to follow up by phone or with additional mailed reminders.

Research shows financial success is more likely if patient copays and outstanding balances are captured at the time of service before a patient departs the facility. And it’s worth it. Practices only collect 50 to 70% of patient payments after patients leave the office. It’s time to be strategic about patient collections.

There are three primary benefits to collecting copays and outstanding balances at time of service.

1. Promote a positive patient / provider experience 

A simplified patient experience with time-of-service payment solutions can improve patient satisfaction along with billing transparency, support and service; and is achievable with a payment terminal. This creates an opportunity to communicate with the patient and answer any questions they have about the amount due. In addition, patients have the opportunity to make payments in a secure format they feel comfortable with including by credit card or even Google Pay or Apple Pay.

This option goes a long way to meeting patients in their comfort zone and ultimately helps your team forge stronger patient relationships based on empathy, open communication and a culture of trust.

2. Reduce medical billing and back-end collection costs 

Time-of-service payments can address the amount owed for a particular visit, as well as outstanding balances.

A payment terminal can help with collection efficiency and can manage online and offline sales, refunds and payouts. Your billing department and administration team will realize several advantages, including:

  • Reduced errors resulting from manual entries and updates
  • Lowered back-end collection expenses
  • More time for your staff to address other important revenue cycle management issues
  • Improved consistency across front office and billing department

3. Drive more revenue for your practice

By starting the collection process when a patient is in the office for care rather than the end (after they have departed), providers can get a head start and maintain a lead on their practice’s revenue.

Open discussion at the point of care means patients can ask questions and your team can provide guidance and clarity for optimal collections outcomes. Tips to improve this process include training your staff to:

  • Confirm amount due
  • Maintain an attitude of service and empathy
  • Share payment options and collect
  • Offer a printed copy of their remaining bill if balance is not paid in full

Make the most of point-of-care collections

Your practice relies on patient collections for revenue. But escalating bills, confusion around amounts due and a lack of communication can put the brakes on patient response. Begin to focus on time-of-service collections and train your staff to communicate clearly and with care for each patient. The three primary benefits of time-of-service collections can catapult your practice to improved patient collection efficiency. 

A payment terminal reader at your front office empowers patients and front office staff to address in-person time-of-service payment collection. Such a system will help you implement integrated technology that supports a simplified patient experience, reduces medical billing investment and ultimately drives more revenue to allow your practice to continue supporting patients’ needs and create a strong provider/patient relationship.

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Written by

Kevin Clinton, director of marketing, payment solutions

Kevin Clinton is the director of marketing, payment solutions, and joined Tebra in 2019. He has more than 20 years of experience in strategic marketing and is dedicated to driving brand growth by delivering valuable solutions to Tebra customers.

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