The healthcare space is rapidly changing. It is an industry that has not been immune from the need for digital transformation, especially as telehealth options have become more prevalent.
Given these changes, improving cash flow is at the top of the priority list for many dental practices. Not only is cash flow critical to a practice’s success, but it should also be efficiently managed. Most practices struggle in this area. Their practice management software must be able to support effective payments, AR, billing, and collections functionality.
There are many different factors that can impact cash flow:
- Whether or not patients pay on time
- Delinquent account depreciation/disintegrating value of A/R
- How efficient cash flow/AR solutions are
- Health of billing and collections processes
A TransUnion Healthcare analysis reported that patients saw an 11% increase in average out-of-pocket costs in 2017 — increasing from $1,630 in Q4 2016 to $1,813 in Q4 2017. That analysis pointed out that while nearly half (49%) of out-of-pocket costs were under $500 in 2017, 39% were between $501 and $1,000, and 12% were over $1,000.
This shift of financial burden away from payers and onto patients means that practices must be more cognizant of cash flow than ever. The reality is that patients are less reliable than insurers when it comes to making payments, and some patients simply cannot pay the entire bill. A new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows that roughly 1 in 7 people say their families struggle to pay medical bills.
This ripple effect can be felt by dental practices, especially at the beginning of the year when deductibles reset and patients find themselves responsible for the bulk of the payment burden.
A 2014 report by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau found that nearly 43 million Americans have unpaid medical debt hanging over their heads. In fact, half of all overdue debt reported on American’s credit reports comes from medical expenses. This can happen for several reasons, ranging from misunderstanding which doctors are in-network, surprise medical bills, hospital stays, or ambulance rides.
The issue of delinquent medical bills is complex for the healthcare industry which faces more scrutiny than traditional commercial businesses when it comes to collection practices. Most consumers face an onslaught of texts, phone calls, and letters from cell phone companies and other commercial businesses when a bill is past due. Dental practices often send just one statement and only resort to following up by phone after 90 days.
Integrated Payments Enhance Practice Management Software
One of the most effective things a practice can do to increase collections is to make it as easy as possible for patients to pay. This means accepting a wide range of payment methods so that patients can pay using whichever method they have available at the time of the visit.
This means enabling practices to accept credit and debit cards (via swipe or chip), cash, digital wallet, or check. Practices must keep a finger on the pulse of what patients’ insurance covers and what the copay total will be.
Allowing practices to keep credit card information on file (and facilitating the agreement for the patient to sign allowing the practice to use it for billing) is also important. This also requires adherence to PCI requirements, which should be made as simple for practices as possible. The ability to set up recurring payments goes hand-in-hand here to allow practices to automatically process patient payments.
Since we are living in a digital era, the ability to send electronic statement notifications via email and text for patients to pay online is critical. The system should also allow users to key in credit card payments collected over the phone. All payments, regardless of how they are taken, should post automatically to the patient’s ledger, offering clarity and transparency into a practice’s accounts receivable.
Wrapping Value Around Payments
The payments piece is an important component for any practice management software, but the best developers will take it a step further to help their practice customers streamline things from start to finish.
Working with a partner like Global Payments Integrated can do more than remove friction from the payments experience. Our tools and services can help your customers drive engagement, drive commerce, improve customer experience — and ultimately, improve cash flow.
In addition to helping your customers accept a broad array of payment methods, we offer tools that will help your customers thrive and grow.
Cross-Chain Performance – Give your practices insights into how multiple locations are performing comparatively in their respective markets.
Competitive Insight – Enable practices to see how they measure up against key competitors.
Callpop Technologies – Facilitate seamless and open communication between practices and their customers. Callpop empowers practices by providing key information about a customer each time they call, including balance owed, personal information, appointment times and history, and Smart-Caller ID. Practices can also push texts when lines are busy and send appointment reminders and Google Map directions via text.
For more information about how Global Payments Integrated can help you help your customers reduce churn, reduce no shows, reduce revenue cycle management, and improve cash flow, contact us today.