One of the most difficult things in any practice is how to keep the bills paid while you are waiting for your money to come in. This is especially true of practices that are relying on health insurance or employee assistance program payments. Some will say that you should just take self-pay clients to resolve this issue, but this is difficult to do particularly when you are first starting out. Also, just because clients are "self-pay" doesn't necessarily mean that they are good about paying you! Here are some things that you can do to improve your cash flow.
File your claims daily
The quicker you can get your claims out, the faster you will get paid. If you can't do so on a daily basis, then I would suggest no less than once or twice a week.
File insurance claims electronically
If you are filing paper claims, you can expect to get paid in about 6-8 weeks. This is assuming that there are no errors with the claims. In that case, they are sent back to you (if you are lucky) so that you can fix the problem and resubmit the claim. Sometimes you don't hear anything at all and you have to call to find out the status of the claim(s) only to be told of the error, or worse, that they never received the claim. Now you have to resubmit and wait another 6-8 weeks! Also, keep in mind that when you file in paper you usually get paid in paper (although there are some exceptions to this). This means having to go to the bank to deposit your checks. Compare this with filing claims electronically where you can expect to get paid on average in 10-14 days and the money goes directly into your bank account. Also, when there are errors, you are able to catch them a lot sooner. If you don't have a practice management system that allows to you do so, or if you don't have one at all, I recommend you invest in one (more on this later).
Accept credit/debit cards
Think about how you pay for things these days. How often do you have cash or your checkbook on hand? If you are only accepting cash or check payments then you will hear, "I forgot to bring my checkbook", "I forgot to stop at the ATM" or "Can I pay you next week?" more than you should. You can significantly reduce this by accepting credit or debit cards. This also allows clients to use money from their health savings account (HSA) which are typically accessed by a debit card. Some practice management systems have the ability to integrate with credit card merchants, which means you don't have to manually enter the payments into client ledgers separately if you had a stand-alone credit card machine.
Accept payments on your website
Once you are set up to accept credit/debit cards you can create a link on you website that allows clients to pay online. So next time you hear "I forgot" you can tell your client to make a payment through your website when they get home (no more excuses). Just one more reason to have a website if you don't already.
Accept payments by phone
To do so you need to be able to accept credit cards. Our system also allows us to accept phone payments by using a client's checking or savings account number along with their bank routing number. Clients can also pay by credit card over the phone. Set up a separate voice mail box on your system so client's can leave their payment information. When they call and get your voice mail one of the options now is "If you would like to make a payment by phone, please press 2."
Credit card authorization on file
We created a form that client's can fill out at the onset of treatment where they authorize recurring charges to their credit or debit card at a frequency that they specify (e.g., each visit, monthly, until a certain date, etc.). If you have their authorization on file, then you don't have to worry about a forgotten wallet or purse.