With the new year underway, many of us have been reviewing our achievements of the past year and setting new goals. Some of the goals that should be reviewed are financial and require examining how your office's financial policies support you in achieving those goals.
If you do not have a written financial policy, now is the time to sit down with your team to discuss your goals and ways you can best serve both your patients and your community.If you already have written financial policies, I suggest you review and revise them to meet the constant changing times and conditions. If you don't have a written financial policy, here are some general policies to consider:
- Chiropractic care will always be given on a basis of need and no consideration will govern the quality of care.
- We will expect patients who are financially able to pay their accounts.
- We will give special consideration to patients who are financially unable to pay their accounts.
- We will always be willing to arrange terms to meet the individual's needs.
- Finally, remember that you can always make an exception to an established policy, but you can never make a policy out of a thousand individual exceptions.
The following are some action policies which will support you in meeting your goals:
- We will obtain sufficient information on each patient so we can justly manage their accounts.
- We will let each patient know how much and by when they are expected to pay.
- We will encourage patients to discuss fees with us.
- We will let each patient know for what they are being charged.
- When a patient does not pay as agreed, we will ask them to pay.
- After carrying out all other points of our policy, we will take any means within the realm of good.
- Chiropractic policy is to obtain payment from those who are able to pay. We do this in fairness to your patients who are able to pay their accounts.
Unfortunately there will be things that are out of your control such as illness, age, temporary financial hardship, slow paying habits, dissatisfaction with service, and a few people who never had any intention of paying. On the other hand, there are also reasons for poor collections that are within the control of the office, including delayed billing, incorrect or incomplete data, charges not made to the responsible party, misunderstood charges and unexplained services, misunderstandings of payment terms and older accounts.
Financial policies do not have to be given to patients to read and sign. However, they must be written and placed in your policy and procedure manuals so when questions arise, you don't have to think about how to handle the situation.
I prefer to provide the patient with a written policy that they read, sign and date. I use a form that covers policies for our cash, health insurance, work-related injuries and Medicare patients. If they are a cash patient, I highlight the cash section and general policies section of the form, so patients know that these sections pertain to their current situation. Once they have signed and dated it, I give them a copy for their records.
This type of policy also plants seeds for referrals. In other words, it tells patients that if they know someone who is injured on the job and has Medicare or health insurance coverage, we accept these types of cases as well. Because personal injury cases are so complex, I have a separate policy for those cases which gives a very detailed explanation on how we will collect payment. If you would like a sample financial policy, please e-mail me at with "FP" in the subject box and I will be happy to send you a sample.
Remember that having written financial policies is important for the following reasons: Policies help establish goodwill with patients. Policies provide a clear understanding of your policy, which motivates your patients to fit medical expenses properly into their list of monthly bills. Policies let patients know where they stand. Policies help you improve your collection rate. Policies help you function more efficiently. Policies help you handle the majority of accounts without having to make a decision on each account.
Adherence to your policies will help you accomplish these objectives: Do your job better with less time and effort, keep your accounts receivable to a minimum, allow for collection of a higher percentage from your outstanding accounts, and promote even greater goodwill among your patients.For additional information on how to determine financial policies, please read "Paying Is Part of Getting Well," which appeared in the Jan. 29, 2005 issue of Dynamic Chiropractic (www.chiroweb.com/archives/23/03/04.html). Wishing you a prosperous 2008.
Click here for previous articles by Lisa Bilodeau, CA.