7 Ways To Prevent Outstanding Bills At Your Practice

Maximize Revenue With These Medical Billing Improvements

You’re probably all too familiar with the current situation. Healthcare changes have made it more challenging for medical practices to be profitable. At the same time, patients are experiencing higher out-of-pocket costs. On top of that, many people are losing their insurance which means they are on their own to foot the bill.

In 2016, one in five Americans age 18-64 with insurance encountered problems paying medical bills. While over half of uninsured patients reported problems paying medical bills.

It’s expensive and time-consuming to try to collect on unpaid balances. Over time patients may move, or their financial situation may change meaning it could be a lot more challenging to collect outstanding bills as time goes by.

The more time passes, the less likely you are to receive a payment.

If you send outstanding balances to a collection agency, you’re likely ending up with only a fraction of the original bills paid and the agency is taking a hefty chunk of what is collected.

Don’t wait until a bill is overdue to put a plan into action!

By taking steps to prevent outstanding bills you can minimize costly collection efforts and increase your overall revenue.

  1. Talk about costs up front

Transparency in pricing will help prevent patients from getting stuck with a bill that is many times higher than they had anticipated. Granted, it can be difficult to determine how much a procedure will cost until it’s all said and done.

If you can’t say an exact price, give an estimated cost range so that patients at least have an idea of what to expect.

For uninsured patients, let them know your self-pay prices well in advance. For insured patients encourage patients to call their insurance company before scheduling to get an idea of how much they will end up paying, especially on procedures that are typically expensive or minimally covered.

  1. Use billing software with revenue management features

Most medical billing systems come with an account receivable module to help keep track of outstanding payments. Using a system that shows partial payments and gives you visual reports can help you stay on top of your billing.

If you don’t have the features you need, but you’re not ready to switch to a new system, set up integrations to get you the functionality you need.

Here is a link to compare medical billing software

  1. Offer payment plans BEFORE a bill is overdue

If you’re offering a payment plan only after trying to collect an unpaid balance, you’re waiting too long. Offering payment options early on can not only get a payment plan set up more quickly, it saves you time. Aim to forecast situations in which a payment plan may be a good option and set it up as soon as possible.

Save time and effort from your payment plans by using:

  • Email-notifications of payment due dates
  • Automatic bank account deductions
  • An online payment processor
  1. Accept online payments

Making payment as easy as possible will lead to fewer unpaid balances. Having a secure online payment processor makes paying a bill accessible at any time.

Better yet, have an online patient portal where patients can log in to pay their bills, view their documents, and change their information. There you can show patients a reminder of their balance.

  1. Process payment prior to seeing a patient

Processing payment before a patient is seen by a physician is not uncommon and it can lead to fewer outstanding accounts.

Some practices find this option helpful, while for others it may harm their business. Find out what’s best for your practice by asking yourself some questions about how it will affect your practice and your patients.

For example:
  • How often does the nature of an appointment change once the patient is being examined?
  • Will processing payments before appointments cause the front desk process flow to get backed up?
  • How much money are you losing due to unpaid balances?
  • How would your patients who pay their bills on time view this payment model?
  1. Encourage patients to get on the phone with their insurance company

Patients may assume that everything will be covered if their insurance is accepted, but of course, it’s not that simple.

Encouraging patients to get in touch with their insurance company to find out exactly what they can expect can let them know you have their best interests in mind. It also helps to avoid the “cross that bridge when we come to it” mentality toward medical bills.

  1. Establish clear expectations with patients

Your billing processes don’t need to be a secret. Let patients know what to expect from the get-go. It will help them prepare accordingly and it will show that when collection steps need to be taken, it’s not on a case by case basis so people won’t take it personally.

Inform patients of things like:
  • What payment methods you accept
  • When payment is due
  • In what format bills are sent out
  • Who to contact with billing questions

Spending the money on training and software to prevent unpaid bills will likely pay off quickly and can make a big difference in your bottom line over time.

Though it can take some effort on the front end, your staff will be relieved to spend less time trying to track people down, and more time focused on patient care.


Here are 15 more tips to minimize the impact of outstanding bills

  1. Call those who owe regularly to collect overdue balances.
  2. Add “address service requested” to outgoing bills with USPS.
  3. Consider partnering with a medical billing vendor.
  4. Keep track of outstanding bills so when those patients come back in you can collect while they are in the office.
  5. Show empathy – people are more likely to pay if you’re nice!
  6. Implement a standard operation procedure (SOP) for collections for your staff.
  7. Establish clear expectations with patients.
  8. Get all of the patient info up front – including a photo ID.
  9. Ask for updated contact information at each visit.
  10. Obtain permission to leave voicemails.
  11. Be prepared to answer your patients’ billing questions.
  12. Be proactive in discussing billing and insurance.
  13. Keep track of accounts that have recurring issues.
  14. If a discussion about payment is needed, do it in private.
  15. Be flexible, patients are more likely to settle their bills if you have options that work for them.

Was this article helpful?

Related Articles