At the Institute of Podiatric Excellence and Development (IPED)one aspect of practice management that all our podiatric physicians, from brand new practitionersto veteran foot doctors, have to deal with is receiving payment for services rendered in a timely manner. The medical profession is one of the few remaining places where consumers can receive services and goods without paying for them immediately. It’s estimated that 85% of patients do not pay at the time of their visit to the office. An unfortunate fact is that many of these patients will not send payment promptly, creating a cash flow problem for any doctor’s office.
The challenge, however, is choosing a collection agency that will help you get the payment you’re entitled to without wrecking your reputation. Collection agencies are bound by law to follow practices mandated by the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act. That being said, agencies do their job with varying amounts of courtesy. Even though it is the collection agency communicating with them, your patients will see it as your office.
To ensure that you employ a collection agency that won’t cause you to lose patients (and referrals) down the road, follow these tips:
- Look for a collection agency that specializes in medical collections.
- Choose an agency with a good reputation and ask for referrals from other clients.
- Ask to see proof of licensing and bonding.
- Inquire about how the agency’s fees are paid—contingency-based payment for services is best.
- Ask what type of training collection agents receive. Professionalism, tact, ethics and how to handle a wide variety of situations should all be part of a good training program.
- Judge for yourself if your phone contact with the agency is courteous, efficient and effective.
- Review copies of the letters they send out to patients for collection purposes. Are the letters professional, clear and have a courteous tone?
- Be sure that the agency you choose uses all three major credit bureaus in their reporting
- Is the agency proficient in skip tracing?
- Check that the agency you are considering uses the most up-to-date technology including: paperless document imaging, efficient record keeping and document transmittal, secure electronic collection software that can be accessed from any computer, customer reports for analysis and a number of different payment methods available so balances can be paid over the phone.
- The agency you choose should have its own in-house attorney to provide legal services
- Membership in a professional association such as the American Collectors’ Association International is a plus.