Editor’s Dose: Check-up for your private practice financial policy

IF YOU RUN a private practice, then you understand that a comprehensive financial policy can mean the difference between a medical office that runs like a well-oiled machine or one struggling to keep the wheels in motion. Whether you’ve been running a practice for years, or you’re considering starting a new practice, here’s a few recommendations for giving your financial policy a thorough check-up.

Celeste_Jo_Walls_CFDr2• When is your payment required? Most medical offices in today’s market require co-payments at the time of service. However, if the patient doesn’t have insurance, will you require payment in full at the time of service? If you decide to offer payment plans to patients facing financial hardships, what will be the requirements? Number of acceptable payments, requiring automatic drafts for payment plans, or processing an additional fee are all options to consider when offering payment plans.

• What kind of payment options are available? Typically, it’s common to accept cash, personal checks, debit cards, and major credit cards.

• Have you reviewed the procedure for when the insurance company does not pay? Unfortunately, for one reason or another, an insurance company may deny payment on a medical service received by the patient. When it does happen, the payment responsibility almost always falls to the patient.

• What are the late payment penalties, and are they practiced? Considerations for delinquent accounts include when the late payment fee is processed, how long an account is overdue before going into collections (or sold to a collection agency), and — if payment plans are accepted — the balance owed ceiling for when an account must be paid in full before the patient can continue receiving care.

• Is there a missed appointment policy in place? In a private practice, a no-show appointment means loss of revenue. So it’s essential that there is a system in place to minimize this occurrence whenever possible.

• Finally, has the financial policy been reviewed by a lawyer? Before sharing the financial policy with your patients, it’s critical to make sure that there are no unaddressed issues, which potentially could pose a problem later.

CREDIT

column by CELESTE JO WALLS

Celeste Jo Walls is managing editor of Central Florida Doctor magazine. She may be reached by e-mail at celeste.walls@centralfloridamediagroup.com.