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How to Increase Receivables While Preserving Patient Relationships

David Morrisey, for HealthLeaders Media, November 29, 2010

Changing How Patients Think
There are two reasons patients don't pay their outstanding debt:

  1. They believe either they can't pay it (interestingly, research shows that nearly 60% of patients believe they can't pay their bill; while 40% of patients believe they can pay), or.
  2. They believe they don't owe it (research also shows that 98% of patients with outstanding obligations believe that they do owe the money).

Neither your staff nor the patient can change the actual situation, but they can help patients change their perceptions (or misperceptions) and greatly reduce patients'  resistance toward satisfying their debt.

There are several important patient-friendly steps to take to accomplish this objective:

  1. Develop a system where patient rapport is quickly established at the point of service, making it much easier to collect deductibles and co-pays.
  2. Use, both for in-person and phone collection efforts, a script with carefully-chosen language that doesn't invoke a "fight-or-flight" reaction from the patient. For example, when a patient at the point of service says, "Just send me a bill." Your staff member won't respond, "Okay. " Rather, they will be trained to respond something to the effect of, "I know you'd rather we send you a bill, everyone would, and I also know that you probably hate getting stacks of bills in the mail. Wouldn't you really like to avoid that and take care of this now?"
  3. Understand that while nearly all patients acknowledge that they owe the debt and may be able and willing to pay, they are often fearful that they can't. Build a response through language that promotes empathy, builds rapport and trust, and motivates payment.
  4. Educate the patient. Make sure the patient understands their payment options and work with them toward a successful resolution.
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2 comments on "How to Increase Receivables While Preserving Patient Relationships"


Dana Patterson (11/30/2010 at 11:37 AM)
This is a great article! Maintaining relationships is key to collecting money and having return customers! At NCSPlus, that is exactly what we do. We have been around for over 26 years, and we maintain relationships by working every account equally (That's right, no cherry-picking accounts!), and still have the money paid directly to our clients rather than directly to us. This maintains a great relationship with the clients, and our approach is different than any other collection agency out there, in that we give guaranteed results to our clients with a 400% return on investment guaranteed! We are changing the way the world has been seeing the collection industry!

jwmbosco (11/29/2010 at 5:46 PM)
shouldn't the title be "How to Decrease Receivables?" just trying to help