Getting cash in the door on time is a perpetual challenge for many ophthalmology practices and can inhibit their business growth. The process of collecting payments can frustrate patients as well, compounding the difficulties specialty clinics must face.
There are several factors at play. Many practices are familiar with the struggle to maintain consistent levels of billing staff, and the problem has only gotten bigger since the beginning of the Covid pandemic. Lots of patients face mounting financial burdens, and medical debt is on the rise across the U.S. A report from Forbes indicates 50% of Americans carried medical debt in 2021, up from 46% the previous year.
At the same time, healthcare itself has gotten more expensive. Research shows that enrollment in high-deductible health plans has been trending upward for years, which leads to higher out-of-pocket expenses for patients. And almost 30 million Americans still don't even have health insurance, according to a 2022 report from The Kaiser Family Foundation, greatly increasing the potential for patient debt balances that go unpaid indefinitely.
It's likely that patients are now many practices' largest payers. In such a dynamic healthcare landscape, practices must consider ways to optimize their payment process in order to continue maximizing reimbursement. But the process itself can be complex. So where should you start? Nextech Senior Sales Engineer Connie Creamer and Product Manager Magen Parker recently shared with a group of ophthalmology professionals three key areas where practices can improve payment processing.
Maximize point-of-care collections
Collect more than just copays at time of check in. Exploring ways to receive the full amount of what patients will owe at the point-of-care can reduce accounts receivable, increase cash flow, and lessen the administrative burden on your staff.
Discuss out-of-pocket costs in advance
Invest the time to ensure patients understand the scope of their financial responsibility.
Make it easy to pay
Offer patients multiple ways to pay, including online bill pay, patient financing, and in-house payment plans.
"Get disciplined with those time-of-service collections. Look at the full picture of what your patients will owe for services rendered after their insurance has paid their portion of the cost and attempt to collect this amount up front," Creamer said. "Discuss these out-of-pocket expenses with your patients. They want to know what to expect ahead of time. And make it easy for them to pay."
Leading ophthalmology practices rely on technology to help simplify and streamline the workflows essential to payment processing. For example, the right solution can deliver a more intuitive user experience for staff and patients, increased payments volume, budget-friendly financing options for patients, a more complete view of financials for data-driven decisioning, and enhanced security of patients' payment data.
"Nextech is created specifically for ophthalmology. Your practice is not just general healthcare, and we're going to tailor the software to your practice," Parker said.
Watch the full webinar, "How Payment Process Improvements Can Maximize Your Reimbursements," for more in-depth perspective from Creamer and Parker on best practices for pre-appointment, time of service, and post-appointment collections. And learn how Nextech's ophthalmology EHR and practice management solution can help improve your practice's reimbursements and workflows.