Billing and Collections Efficiency in Ophthalmology: Don’t Forget the Front Desk

Billing and Collections Efficiency in Ophthalmology: Don’t Forget the Front Desk

When physicians think “front desk,” they’re probably thinking about creating a great first impression, or about that friendly face which greets patients with a caring “hello.”  When they think “billing and collections,” well, that’s the job of the billing office.  Right?

Wrong–not only wrong, but potentially a costly mistake.  The truth is that efficient billing and collections is everyone’s job.  It’s a team sport, and your front desk personnel are integral and critically important members of that team:  an efficient front desk staff updates insurance information and copies insurance cards, collects copays, reviews account balances and reminds patients of past due balances.  They require the tools and training to maximize the effectiveness of your billing and collections. If they don’t do even just one of the above tasks correctly, the billing office may likely get a rejected EOB and then have to restart the process all over again.

Billing and Collections Are a Team Sport

Here are 4 tips to ensure your front desk staff are up to the job:

  1.  The more satisfied your patients are, the more likely they are to pay on time

Efficient front desk staff make sure patients don’t have to wait.  They greet and check in patients in a timely manner.  They are prepared to answer any reasonable questions your patients ask.  Your patients will respond positively to courteous treatment and, just as surely, will grumble at long wait times and rude behavior.  Make sure your front desk staff understand the job they do is an important one, and understand the importance of patient satisfaction to business success.

  1.  Keep demographic and insurance information up to date

Your front desk staff should be scanning insurance cards at every patient visit.  They should make sure that demographic data is updated at least once a year.  All necessary forms should be located at the front desk and easily accessible.  Your billing staff can’t do their jobs without accurate and current information; without that information, there will be delays in reimbursement.

  1.  Checkout is more than a friendly “see-you-later”

Patients (or their guardians) need to sign and date their encounter form at every checkout.  Checkout is also the time to collect copays unless these were taken care of at check-in.  It’s important that patients take care of their copay at every visit.  Your receptionist should take the time to review each patient’s account balance at the time of checkout and inform them of any past due amounts.  As there will sometimes be questions about these, be sure the receptionist has easy access to the billing manager in your office or to your medical billing company.  Finally, the front desk should always attempt to set up the next appointment at the time of checkout.  Improved scheduling means improved cash flow.

  1.  Consider establishing an annual training camp on billings and collections

This is a great way to impress upon all staff the importance of billings and collections, and to begin providing them with the tools they need to maximize efficiency.  Office physicians and billing office managers should assume the role of coaches.  Coaches oversee the training.  Create a comprehensive Office Manual which coaches can distribute at the outset of the training camp and refer to as needed.  The Manual should include guidelines for coding compliance, policies on coverage, a medical dictionary, all important handbooks (such as those on Medicare, ICD-9, CPT and HCPCS), and all of your important office forms.  Finally, include a list of important web URLs, such as those for your principal carriers.

Practices which relegate their front desk operations to the role of principal greeter don’t understand that the billing and clean claims submission processes begin there.  Your front desk is an integral division in the success of your billing effectiveness.  To ensure billing and collections efficiency, take the time to reassess your front desk procedures and give your staff the tools they need to succeed.

For more information about ways in which you can improve your Billing and Collections Efficiency at the Front Desk, contact us today.