Urgent care centers occupy a unique and sometimes financially unpredictable place in the healthcare ecosystem. Aside from operating in a fragmented market with low brand awareness, someone doesn’t plan for strep throat or falling and hurting their shoulder. By their very nature, these unplanned medical issues are what send people to urgent care centers.
These unexpected medical issues often become unanticipated financial issues. And that often puts urgent care centers in an uncomfortable spot: How do you provide top-flight care while still ensuring compensation for services and improving your revenue cycle management?
This is a trapeze-like balancing act, all of which should be conducted against a backdrop of dignity and privacy. No one wants to sit in an urgent center waiting area and hear a receptionist yell, “Hey, Mr. Jones, your card was declined!” That leads to an unnecessarily adversarial interaction which can impede payment and degrade the whole patient experience.
Here are six ways your urgent care center can spend less time collecting payments and more time treating patients.
1. Verify Insurance Information First
While this sounds like a no-brainer, it’s surprising how many places don’t take this simple step that could save everyone headaches. So many things in today’s churning insurance environment can go wrong. Unless a patient is suffering an acute emergency that requires immediate assistance, verify their insurance information first so your center isn’t left holding the bag.
2. Accept Only Cash or Credit
Usually, we don’t like the idea of cutting off an avenue of payment, but some patients who have a sudden medical emergency come up grab their checkbook and come to the clinic. The patient may be the most well-intentioned, honorable person this side of the Mississippi, and the person who writes the check may have every intention of honoring it.
However, if the check bounces, you’re stuck trying to collect. A simple solution if your urgent care center hasn’t done it already: Quit taking checks. Many businesses have done so. At the very least, weed out the worst risk with a screening technology like TeleCheck or Certegy.
3. Allow Payment Plans
Once you have a cash or plastic policy, devise ways to implement automated payment plans. Remember: An initial partial payment and a payment plan is better than accepting a paper check that may not be good. In other words, a small, immediate payment is better than none at all. Many patients who rely on urgent care are in a financial situation in which a payment plan may be necessary and appreciated.
4. Automate, Automate, Automate
Your staff has enough to do with taking care of patients and complying with paperwork without getting bogged down with collection calls. Find ways to automate the payment and collection process. The centerpiece of any urgent care center’s collection process ought to include a service that amplifies engagement to accelerate patient responsibility payments.
Platforms like PatientBond provide a personal, individually-tailored approach to helping patients with their obligations. PatientBond's automated payment reminders are written with psychographic insights to motivate compliance and promote prompt collection of outstanding patient payments with proven results, including:
- 25x increase in day-to-day collections with 48 hours
- 4x increase in outstanding balance collected daily
- 55 percent digital engagement rate (3x manual phone calls)
- 20:1 return on investment
5. Offer Patient-centric a la Carte Services
If someone only has $200 to spend, well, that’s all that have to spend. If a patient comes in because they injured their shoulder or they have a stomach ache, give the patient options of tests followed by your recommendations. Perhaps they don’t need a complete blood work-up today that they can’t afford.
6. Use Collection Agencies as a Last Resort
No one wants to turn something over to a collection agency, especially since third-party debt collectors charge service fees up to 30 percent on revenue recovered. However, to clear the glut of unpaid accounts from your system, sometimes this makes the most sense.
But there’s a right way and a wrong way to do it. If you absolutely have to use this court of last resort, do it the right way. And following the previous five steps can help you collect prompt patient payments and enhance revenue cycle management without having to turn to a collection agency for help.