A step-by-step guide to improving your billing statements

By Amber Taufen, MA, MGMA assistant editor

How easy does your billing statement make it for patients to pay their outstanding balances? As strange as this may sound, if your statements are confusing, they may delay or deter payments.

“Many practices send out statements that are incomprehensible to patients,” says Laura Palmer, FACMPE, senior analyst, Industry Affairs, MGMA. “If the only printed information is ‘balance due,’ the patients will either call the office for an explanation or they will ignore the bill.”

This is a pressing issue considering the fact that 23.2 percent of total patient services revenue is attributed to collections from patients, according to the MGMA “Practice Perspectives on Patient Payments” research conducted in partnership with Visa Inc. in 2009. Considering that the number of high-deductible health plans and accompanying health savings accounts have more than doubled in the past four years, according to the Center for Policy Research, it is more important than ever to distribute clear billing statements.

MGMA members got quick and easy fixes to common statement problems in the February 2013 issue of MGMA Connexion magazine article “Improving collections: A step-by-step guide to improving your billing statements.” It included several suggestions, including:

  • Position credit-card options to simplify payment
  • Display the payee name, address, phone number and brand logo prominently
  • Highlight the addressee information to confirm correct billing
  • Add a numerical, sequential internal code for quality control and prevention of printing and insertion areas
  • Add dated boxes with past-due amounts and unpaid balances
  • Include barcode technology to prevent envelope-insertion errors

Palmer encourages professionals to add the following patient-friendly billing statement information:

  • A description of services provided at the time (not simply the CPT codes), which will help the patient remember why they visited
  • The total charges and the amount already paid by the insurance and the patient, which can help with questions patients might have about what their insurance plan does and does not cover
  • The total amount that the patient still owes, clearly delineated
  • A sentence explaining what the patient needs to do next – pay the balance? Call the insurance company?
  • A phone number on the bill that directs the patient directly to the billing staff
  • Statement envelopes printed with “forwarding and address correction requested” so you don’t miss patients who have moved or whose addresses might have been incorrectly entered into your system

There are dozens of other ways to clean up your billing statements (and overall billing process) to maximize payment, including preparing an electronic payment portal, developing an archive of PDF statements, using quick-response (QR) codes and more. Read more in “Improving collections: A step-by-step guide to improving your billing statements” in the February 2013 issue of MGMA Connexion magazine.

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