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Choose a medical billing and collections agency right for your practice and patients

Choose a medical billing and collections agency right for your practice and patients

The third party medical service providers you select can do a world of good for your medical practice and patients, or can cause a world of embarrassment, tarnishing your community image.

Many of today’s physician practices and healthcare organizations realize that outsourcing the medical billing and collections process to a third party can save a lot of time and effort, with some really good potential benefits for bottom line revenue and profit. However, not all doctors who are shopping around for these services understand some of the most basic points that buyers should think about when considering a potential partner. Here is some expert advice in selecting a great company that will keep your operations running smoothly.


Do

Do shop around and compare offerings

Get competitive offers from different companies to understand how this market works, and what you’re likely to get for a certain price. Doctors who passively accept the first offer may not be getting as much as they should for their money, or setting up their practice for key optimization.

Do match service providers for your specialty

While many medical billing companies state they cover multiple specialties, also look for the company that has expertise with your practice type because they are accustomed to the unique nuances of your particular practice type. For example, some third party companies typically represent family practice doctors, while others cater to different kinds of specialists like physical therapy.

Do understand their customer service delivery

This is a critical step in your interview with a potential third party service provider. We’ve read time and time again how poor choices can mean the loss of reputation for a doctor’s office, or even legal liabilities, when third party services resort to unprofessional tactics.

Drill down into the details of how a third party service handles the follow up and collections process. Here are a few sample questions to ask:

  • How exactly do company representatives reach out to patients?
  • What do phone calls sound like?
  • What do early out collection letters look like?
  • What are some of the practices that the company avoids in order to maintain professionalism?

Asking these kinds of questions can really help your practice discriminate between expert, professional third parties that will bring in revenue compassionately, and the sorts of fly-by-night companies that end up getting their clients in hot water and all over the front page of local newspapers.

Do delegate an in-house staff member as the practice’s liaison

You have a lot to do throughout the normal practice day, and it’s often unrealistic to expect that you will do all the work involved in maintaining relationships with outside vendors such as medical billing or collection services. Assign an experienced top-level staffer to manage and coordinate the workflow and questions between your office and the outsourced partner. This step alone can create a smooth transition.

Do maintain open communication channels

After your practice or group has established a relationship with a third party medical billing company or other service provider, keep in touch on a regular basis. Regular communication can often identify issues early on and lead to quick resolution.


Don't

Do not assume that well-presented companies will treat patients well

No matter how good a medical billing or other outsourced company looks at the outset, it’s up to you to verify whether or not the company has a good track record in the hard and soft skills related to the medical billing and collection management process. Do some research on each company that you are considering, and don’t let a flashy collection service get in the way of you choosing the best one for your practice.

Do not leave the patient out of the equation

It’s tempting to think of service providers solely in terms of what they can do for your practice group’s bottom line, but as mentioned above, ignoring the needs of the patient can have dire consequences for a provider. Put yourself in the patient’s shoes when envisioning how third parties will work with your in-house staff.

Do not allow them to dictate the quality of your customer service

Outside medical service providers have a lot of control over different parts of the process, such as the technology that is used and the methods for record-keeping. However, it’s important that doctors keep control of how their business is presented to their customers. If a third party company balks at discussing key aspects of patient outreach, it may be a good idea to walk away from a potential deal and find a company that will work with the practice to keep its brand in good shape.

Do not let problems fester

Some doctors who have an inkling that something may be wrong are tempted to ignore the situation and hope that it will go away. The best approach is usually to do the tough investigative work at the first hint of problematic actions on the part of third party companies representing your office. This can help minimize legal challenges later if things get out of hand. If you sense any sort of problems arising, don’t let them fest and take care of them right away.

Do not think of a provider as a one-size-fits-all-solution

Third parties can offer a mix of medical billing, collections, revenue cycle management, digital records technologies, and more. It’s important to keep in mind that each of these offers will be uniquely different. Think about what makes the most sense for your practice now and in the future to avoid starting and stopping partnerships unnecessarily.


Summary
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When you are shopping for a third party medical service, be sure that you have covered critical questions and gleaned satisfactory answers before you make your final decision. The profitability and reputation of your office could be at stake with the wrong third party medical billing and collections provider. So, do your homework and research each potential provider to ensure that your practice and your patients are satisfied.


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Photo Credits: The Stethoscope by Flickr: Alex E. Proimos; Check Man, Cross Man and Jump Man © ioannis kounadeas - Fotolia.com

Sue (Sunni) PattersonPresident/CEO

Sue (Sunni) Patterson started in the healthcare industry as a senior medical claims processor with a major insurance payer. Sunni is President of RMK Holdings Inc., a healthcare revenue cycle management services firm. Key specialization areas in...

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