Are optometric practices taking a 21st-century approach to payments, or are mailed bills still modus operandi for getting paid
Convenience is the calling card of this day-and-age, and practitioners who leverage technology to provide patients with efficient options—especially in how patients pay—are the ones who set themselves apart.
According to a 2013 Western Union survey of U.S. consumers, more than 46% of bills are paid online compared to only 20% via mail and 5% over the phone. That survey also found 39% of respondents resolved to pay more bills online.
"If you are continuing to use that paper statement and expect the same result, you might be fighting an uphill battle," said CardChoice International CEO Ray McGrogan in a webinar from AOAExcel™ Endorsed Business Partner Compliancy Group, LLC.
Where's the payoff?
Implementing this passive manner of collecting payments allows patients to take care of a bill 24 hours a day with no staff involvement required; payments are there waiting for you when you come into the office, McGrogan said. And better yet, online bill pay can translate into cost savings over traditional mailed statements just in terms of envelopes and stamps.
To establish a benchmark for how much paper statements ultimately cost the practice each billing cycle, factor in:
- How many paper statements are sent each month?
- What is the cost to generate statements in staff time, resources, printing and postage?
- What is your average receivable per cycle?
To set up online bill pay, consult with your credit card processor and your website vendor to establish a secure, online payment portal on the practice website. Practices can also utilize independent patient pay portal services.
Tips to promote online payment portal
Once the practice's online payment portal is established, it's time to get patients onboard. Here are three suggestions to easily prompt patients toward online bill pay:
- Place a message on mailed billing statements. Publicize your office's online payment portal on billing statements or paperwork provided to patients. Use phrases such as "for your convenience" or buzzwords like "quick, easy, secure and simple" to catch patients' eyes and direct them toward your website.
- Appeal to patients' green side. Use signs around the front desk that explain how the office is trying to "reduce its footprint" or "has gone green," and patients are encouraged to visit the practice's website for a secure payment option.
- Emphasize how digital offerings boost patient choice. According to a poll by TechnologyAdvice, 60% of respondents said online appointment scheduling and bill pay were important in their choice of doctors, and digital services were especially in demand with patients between 25 and 34 years of age. Promote online bill pay as a digital service that sets your practice apart from others.
Changes in coding and reimbursements worth knowing. Meanwhile, with the clock winding down on 2023, the AOA continues to press for Congress to act on reforms that would give doctors of optometry an annual, permanent inflationary Medicare payment tied to the Medicare Economic Index.
The federal government and private payers are heavily scrutinizing the use of modifier -25. When used appropriately, it can help to ensure that patients receive appropriate treatment and that doctors of optometry are reimbursed appropriately for their service. If you believe a claim that includes modifier -25 was inappropriately denied, follow appropriate criteria when appealing.