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12 Steps to Collect Past Due Accounts

Collecting on past due accounts is a function that the Accounts Manager will find herself/himself having to do. Any contact with a patient/client, even under these circumstances, should be kept on a friendly, professional and dignified basis. This will promote respect for the office and its business practices.

Always remember the following points with regard to your patients/clients:

  • Most people have good intentions and want to cooperate with agreements that they have made.
  • Although a person’s account may be overdue, most people still have a good intention to take care of it.
  • Most people prioritize their bills and will first pay those that they feel are most pressing.
  • Most people with past due accounts will pay those bills where someone is actively requesting them to pay.

Bearing in mind the above, your role is to arrange to be one of the creditors that your patients/clients will not delay paying. The following points may be helpful in this regard:

  1. Bill promptly every month.
  2. Ensure that your bills are accurate.
  3. Ensure that you have the original signed financial agreement from your patient/client.
  4. Contact the patient/client as soon as you realize the account has become delinquent.
  5. When you speak with the patient/client, let them know that you believe that they are able to make payment.
  6. Let the patient/client know that you expect to be paid, and refresh their memory on the signed agreement.
  7. Allow the patient/client their self-respect; never back them into a corner, insult or badger the patient/client.
  8. Explain to the patient/client that you want to help him/her work it out so that they can maintain the agreement that they made with your office.
  9. Be prepared to offer some options to the patient/client that they may not have considered.
  10. Be willing to really communicate with the patient/client so that a true understanding and agreement can be reached.
  11. If absolutely necessary, utilize the credit reporting associations. Let the patient/client know that you are planning to do so and that this will go on their credit rating.
  12. As a last resort, utilize the services of a collection agency, and let the patient/client know that you plan to do so.

If you are an owner and would like free help on collecting past due accounts or any other management topic, fill out the form to your right, and we will be more than happy to assist you. Scroll to top

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The First Step to a Successful Marketing Campaign: Research

To craft a successful marketing campaign for your practice, you must first conduct some basic research that will start to identify what your marketing plan and promotional pieces will look like and the message they should deliver. The first step in your research is to work out the general mindset and styles that dominate your particular geographic area. Every state, city, town or area has its own mindset and styles that are unique to that place. If you have lived in the area where you practice, chances are you know them well. Additionally, it is smart to check with others from the area to ensure that your opinion agrees with the general consensus. If you are new to the area, ask locals, as they generally have a good idea.

Some examples are provided below to give you an idea of what one might list as the mindset and styles for his/her area.

Example #1:

Mindset: “Slow and steady pace”, “Friendly”, “Easy going”

Style: Earthy. Lots of greens and whites used in colors.

Old fashioned.

Example #2:

Mindset: “Efficient and Professional”, “Friendly”, “Straight to the point”

Style: Modern and Edgy. Lots of blues used in colors.

High-tech.

Next, identify the top three practices in your area and find out how they market themselves. Doing this will enable you to see which marketing approaches have been successful for your area. Looking at your three competitors’ websites is a good start, as well as looking in the Yellow Pages, local newspapers, Valpak/ADVO, etc., to see how they are marketing. Look for which words they are using to sell their services to people, which offers they are advancing and what their designs look like.

The next step is to identify the successful campaigns or promotional pieces you have created and used thus far. You need to look for any promotional pieces, slogans, brochures, ads, internal marketing campaigns, discounts and word-of-mouth success that resulted in notable increases in delivery. Again, pay attention to the words that were used, the offers that were put forward and the visual impact of the design. It is also good to consider the general demographics of your area. A good website that provides this information for free is: http://www.city-data.com. Gathering this data should enable you to get a good idea of both what worked for you and what works for other similar professionals in your area. It also provides you with a general impression of what people in your area like and will respond to.

This basic homework will provide you with a foundation of information that can be used as you work out new marketing campaigns, whether internal or external.

Fill out the form on this page to read the rest of this article and find out the second step in crafting a successful marketing campaign. (highly recommended). Click to scroll to the top of the page.

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Your Responsibility to Your Staff

Just as your staff has responsibilities to you and your practice, you likewise have several responsibilities to your practice and staff.

The complexity of active leadership can be best understood by breaking it down into its essential and integral parts:

1. Communication: It is vital for the owner of a practice to maintain excellent communication with his/her staff and to provide active and visible leadership. The following are key elements involving communication that you, as an executive, should implement:

a. Communication of Goals.
Determine the purpose of your practice (most often presented in the form of a mission statement) and communicate that to your staff. Impart the goals of the practice to the staff and keep them informed of the projects that you intend to implement to achieve those goals. The better informed your staff is and the greater understanding they have of such matters, the more likely they will be working in tandem with you.
b. Communication Tools.
There are some fundamental communication tools to implement in the practice; see to it that your staff uses them. These tools can be established and maintained by your office manager; but, as the senior executive and leader of the practice, you must reinforce them. Examples of those tools are: written requests or proposals, written office communications, written office policies and the use of an effective communication relay system.
c. Responding to Communication.
It is vital that you and your staff respond swiftly to written communication. When people do not receive a reply to their memos or emails within an appropriate and reasonable period of time, thereafter they become less willing to communicate. As a result, the business can have more problems on its hands. (Keep that in mind when reading the second part of this article.

2. Staff Meetings: It is also vital that you ensure that the practice holds staff meetings once per week. This is one of the most valuable opportunities available to you for educating staff, setting goals and targets, and handling problem areas that should be addressed by the staff as a whole. The communication lines within the business will strengthen considerably too.

You, as the owner and leader, in addition to your office manager, should continually strive to establish strong coordination and leadership for your staff. Any problems or disagreements between the owner and office manager should always be sorted out OUTSIDE of the staff meeting and should never be addressed in the presence of any staff.

Staff meetings run most effectively if the owner and office manager meet prior to the staff meeting to plan and coordinate those matters to be addressed with the staff.

Fill out the form on this page to read the rest of this article and find out why writing and implementing Policy in your practice, as well as setting Goals and Targets successfully, is so vital to achieving expansion. (highly recommended). Click to scroll to the top of the page.

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Where is Your Net Profit?

You’ve worked hard all week; the office atmosphere is rife with discipline and brisk efficiency. The staff have been getting along with one another and you are proud of the team spirit they’ve both individually and collectively demonstrated. In fact, your staff has almost read your mind and anticipated your every need. All of the patients have arrived on time for their appointments, and the majority of them have even heeded your advice and accepted your treatment plans!

Now it’s Friday afternoon; the staff has received their paychecks, which reflect production bonuses that you’ve doled out in appreciation of their contribution to the overall increase in production. But then you look at your bank balance and you’re surprised and sorely disappointed at the lack of funds left over for you. What happened?

Where is your net profit? Did you work hard all week just to earn less money? The bank balance should be going up, not down!

You wonder if it’s worth all the effort. All of that increased production might just have landed you into a “higher office-overhead/higher tax-bracket” situation. It’s that frustrating income vortex — the place where, despite producing and collecting more, you take home the same amount or less. And following a few of these “successful” weeks, you shake your head and realize that if you endure much more of that kind of success, you’ll go broke! So, what should you do?

Let’s start by taking a look at the myriad of possibilities of what might have occurred that resulted in your not having any profit for yourself:

Management Issues:

  • Could you consolidate loans for equipment and/or your practice into just one loan, in order to reduce your monthly loan payment and possibly the interest amount?
  • Can you reduce the amount of inventory the practice maintains?
  • Are you collecting your Accounts Receivables with minimal aging? Do you collect at least 97% of the amounts billed?
  • Do you have any sort of monitoring system that helps you to know at a glance, statistically, who is productive and who isn’t?
  • Do you have written office policies that are known and enforced?
  • Does each position in the office have a fully delineated job description?

To learn the 8 staff-related issues that can plague you and adversely affect your net income read the final half of this article by filling out this form (Highly Recommended).

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Leadership Attributes and Management Qualities

As a practice owner, you should be asking yourself the following questions objectively:

  • Am I a good leader?
  • Do I run from conflict?
  • Am I able to motivate my staff?
  • Is my office harmonious or is it filled with conflict?
  • Does my staff “own” their jobs, or do they just punch in and out?
  • Do I ever feel that my staff is “holding me hostage”?
  • Am I running my practice? …or is my practice running me?

Did you answer any of those questions favorably? If you’re like the average practice owner, the answer is no. That’s because, like most doctors, you were not trained in leadership and executive skills. Consequently, you will often find yourself in management situations in which you lack certainty about what to do. Insufficient leadership could easily result in poor staff performance, unhappy patients, needless stress and lost income.

Maxim: The Morale of the Staff Is Based Upon Their Individual and Office Production.

Believe it or not, most staff members want to do a good job. They want to improve and they like being acknowledged for a job well done. When one produces a good product, it’s a reflection of his competence. Demonstration of competence raises anyone’s morale. As a leader, you have the opportunity to foster an environment that can bring about ever-increasing competence and morale.

So, how does one become a good leader? Is leadership a personality trait with which only a few are blessed? No! Leadership skills are taught and, with practice, can be put successfully into daily use.

The first quality a good leader has to have is the ability to confront situations, i.e., to face up to them. If you are the type of owner who runs and hides from conflict and staff problems, then you need some improvement in this area. First, decide that you are going to face up to the problem. Simply take a moment and make the decision; this is very helpful.

Next, grab someone — a friend, your spouse or a colleague — and roleplay the problem. Have that person play the part of the troublesome individual, hitting you hard with backtalk, new problems, can’t-be-dones, etc. Be sure to do the drill until you find that you are more confident and even feel somewhat excited to try out your new skills and presentation. You will be surprised at how easily the situation will resolve once you do this. Keep in mind that your staff can’t and won’t follow if you don’t lead.

It is very important for you to maintain excellent communication with your staff and to provide demonstrable leadership.

To learn Six Key Actions That You, As An Executive, Should Take fill out this form.

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How to Write a Mission Statement

The owner of a veterinary practice recently asked us about how a mission statement should be written, what it should focus on and what the final objective should be. This example is for this particular veterinary practice, but all of the concepts we will cover apply equally to any other private healthcare practice.

Their current mission statement is below:

“To honor our patients, (our) Animal Hospital ensures that each client is confident in the care they are receiving for their animal companion, comfortable with all aspects of the hospital and staff, as well as engaged in all areas of their pet’s health and wellbeing.”

The idea of this mission statement is good. My only concern with it is that it is somewhat limited. Here’s what I mean.

The effectiveness of a mission statement is that it creates the goal towards which the practice strives. The goal, once stated, is what is called an ideal scene, meaning what the practice would look like to the practice owners if it was functioning at an ideal level. This ideal scene is then compared to the existing scene. The differences are the corrections that need to be undertaken.

Let’s use your mission statement as an example. Let’s say when you compare this mission statement, this ideal scene, with the existing scene you find what’s missing is that the clients aren’t as engaged in all areas of their pet’s health and wellbeing as you would like. Let’s say too many of them view their pets as a bit disposable. This can be a problem in more rural areas where pet owners often feel that if something is wrong with the pet, rather than fix it, they’ll have the pet put down and get a new pet….in other words, the pet is viewed as discretionary or disposable.

So, how does this missing ingredient to the mission statement affect the doctors? The doctors have to compromise their treatment of the patients to align with the clients’ wishes. While it’s a bit optimistic to think that all clients will do everything that is best for the pet and not take their pocketbook into account, when the pendulum swings too much in that direction, the doctor’s work satisfaction declines. I’ve seen this really crush the morale of the doctor. So, assuming this was indeed a true mission statement, now we have the existing scene not lining up with the ideal scene and the result is the doctors are not happy.

To see how to resolve this issue in your practice read the final half of this article by filling out this form.

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How to Properly Correct Employees

It would be wonderful if employees never make mistakes and always do a perfect job. But we’re all human; on-the-job errors are part and parcel of working in a practice. That begs this question: What do you do when a staff member messes up and how do you correct him?

Here are some suggestions on how to properly correct your staff:

As part of this overall process, you must have written job descriptions and office policies that clearly delineate which tasks a person is responsible for on his/her job and the overall working guidelines for the office, respectively. The reason that proper, written job descriptions and office policies are so important is that you should use them as part of your correction procedure. Unfortunately, very few practice owners have them in place.

For starters, if you need to correct a staff member, make sure you review any specific disciplinary policies that you have issued, so that your actions are consistent with them. For example, if your policy states that proven theft results in an automatic discharge, you would not utilize a gradient approach to termination by merely reprimanding someone guilty of stealing.

Typically, the first step in correcting a staff member is to direct his attention to the specific item he violated, as delineated in his job description or in your written policies, indicating the appropriate action that he failed to take or the inappropriate action that he did take. Direct the staff member to reread the policy and/or job description. Ensure that he understands it and clear up any confusions or misunderstandings. This corrective action is usually sufficient to handle the first offense.

If the staff member commits a second offense involving the same issue, the office manager or practice owner should review the situation with the staff member and have him sign a copy of the policy or procedure that covers what was violated, as an attestation that he understands it and agrees to abide by it. We then recommend that you put a copy of the signed document in the staff member’s personnel file and give him a copy to put in his staff binder. One may consider that this constitutes a warning.

To learn how to apply these policies in specific situations, such as;  How many warnings should be issued? What if the employee is an excellent producer? Read the final half of this article by filling out this form.

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Building a Successful Practice Through Efficient Hiring

To build the most productive and profitable practice, having stable staff that work together to accomplish the mission of the practice is vital. Knowing how and who to hire is a key skill. Losing employees who may have seemed appropriate for your team, yet were not actually a good fit, is an enormous hidden expense in a practice.

In fact, based on the typical costs of finding, interviewing, testing, training and getting a new employee fully functioning on the job, turnover costs can equal six to nine months of the salary of the position. If a position pays $3000 per month, your costs could be $18,000 to $27,000 every time the position turns over. Therefore, it’s vital to know how to screen applicants properly in order to hire the best possible individuals for your practice and avoid the stress and high cost of frequent turnover.

Checking References

Checking the references that a job applicant provides is an important but often neglected step in the hiring process. The quality of staff can make or break a practice, so investigate carefully and hire only those whose background indicates that they will be good employees.

Checking references is not always an easy process. Many employers have become reluctant to voice opinions about a past employee to protect themselves from legal or privacy issues. However, you should still do reference checks on any candidate that you consider hiring, to gather any data you can get.

It’s best to check references prior to a one-on-one interview with the applicant since you might uncover information that will eliminate that candidate and save you interview time. If that’s not possible, check references after the interview but before hiring.

Here are some questions you might ask references:

  • How long was _______ employed by you or your company?
  • Can you tell me his/her ending wage?
  • Why is he/she no longer employed there?
  • Was he/she a loyal employee?
  • Was he/she dependable?
  • Do you feel he/she is honest?
  • Would you rehire this person?

Again, a past employer may not be willing to answer some of these questions. The key question is the last one, “Would you rehire this person?” This question is important to ask if the reference person is very guarded or hesitant in giving answers.

Keep in mind that checking references is just one of several vital steps in the hiring process.

Fill out the below form to the right to receive our Hiring Interview Checklist that you can use to determine the characteristics of your ideal employee (highly recommended). Scroll to top

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Critical Practice Foundations

Critical Practice Foundations

The Basics

Most doctors, when starting their practices, miss some of the basic actions that should be established prior to opening.

An owner of a healthcare practice should always, as a first step, work out the following basics: their purpose as a practice owner, the actual product of the practice, and the statistics that will measure the success of the practice.

Below are examples that you can modify and use for your own practice.

Purpose of the Practice Owner

The owner’s purpose is to establish an efficient health care practice that delivers quality service to its patients and/or clients and to have a very solvent and viable practice that provides an enjoyable place for the staff to work and a high quality-of-life for the doctor/owner.

Once the purpose has been established, it is the owner’s responsibility to set the direction and the pace for the business and to demand that the valuable final products of the organization be achieved. To do that, she/he must work out what the product of the practices are. Here are some examples of products:

  • A solvent, viable, expanding practice that delivers high quality care and service
  • Satisfied patients and clients who have received high quality care and service
  • Statistics
  • Number of active patients/clients
  • Production
  • Collections
  • Net Income
  • Solvency (the amount of cash versus the amount of bills owed)

Putting the purpose, product and statistics in place will help create a strong foundation for the expansion of your practice.

Getting your staff on board with you is another part of this process.

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The Truth About Collections

The Truth About Collections

Accounts receivable and collection percentages are a subject that we hear about frequently. Every doctor has a different idea about what a good collection percentage is as well as how to collect money for services rendered.

For example, I have talked to many doctors that feel obligated to let patients/clients go without paying. They feel guilty about trying to collect from a patient/client if they feel that that person is in a financial hardship.

While this is quite altruistic, what these doctors must also understand is that they can’t continue to provide help to their patients/clients if they can’t afford to keep the doors of their practice open. If you provide a service, you should be compensated for it. Period. Unless you go into a situation knowing in advance that it is going to be a charity case – and there is certainly room for that in any practice, as long as it is planned for – you should insist on being paid for rendering that service.

Of course, this is great in theory, but being able to actually collect all monies owed is another story and requires good group coordination and effort. If you and your staff are trained on how to do this from initial contact through patient discharge, including having the proper policies in place with your staff and patients/clients, your chances of collecting at the time of treatment go up exponentially. We believe that you should be collecting 98% or better of what you are producing, minus insurance adjustments. If you are collecting less than 98%, you are losing net income out of your own pocket.

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