Well, she finally called. I had a question on a bill from one practice that I deal with, so I called and left a message for the billing person. Bills arrived, I put them aside, waiting for a call back. Finally, several months later, I got a call from another person in the office asking about my past due bill. I gave them about 25 percent of the amount due, and told the caller that I was waiting for a call from the billing person. A few days later, I did get a call back – but by now, my notes on the matter were buried somewhere, and I didn’t have the chance to pull them out and talk to her about the question I had. I’ll try to get to it his weekend.
Frankly, the message this billing person sent was that either (1) I’m not important enough to care about, or (2) maybe I’ll get tired and just pay it. Well, if this bill isn’t important to you, it’s not at the top of my list of “to dos” either.
Phone calls are powerful tools for collections. I see many practices that mail bills on Friday, they arrive in the patient’s mailbox on Saturday – and are forgotten about come Monday. I always wondered about this practice – wouldn’t it make more sense to mail on, say, Monday, so it is received on Tuesday? Patients who have questions, or are going to pay with a credit card by phone, can take of it the next day.
When the bill that is clearly responsible for hits 60 days out, it’s time to start making individual phone calls. Many times, the call will elicit a payment on the spot – ask for a credit card (or debit), or try to get a payment commitment set up right away. If the patient commits to pay “in a few days”, you can tell them that you will call back in, say, 5 business days. Then call. At all times, be friendly and understanding – no need to annoy people for no reason. They may volunteer problems that they are having, and you can tell them that “Dr. XX understands that many of your patients are having difficulties, so he wants me to work with you to plan to pay the outstanding bill”. Naming the patient’s physicians personalizes the call and connect the payment to a real person, the physician who, we expect, the patients likes.
By and large, people would like to be able to pay their bills. If people are resistant, it doesn’t mean that they don’t want to pay – it may reflect the squeeze that they are under between their income (or lack thereof) and rising prices for gas, electricity, air conditioning and heat.
In making calls, look to scheduling people to work later in the evening, either by paying overtime or to a shorter workday on another day of the week (such as Friday, letting them leave early). The personal connection of a phone call is both a call to action as well as a means of collecting monies owed in a more timely manner.