Collection tips for community hospitals

Experts share tips that can be applied to larger hospitals, too

Hospitals of all sizes face the same challenges when it comes to collections. The tricky part of collections at smaller, community hospitals, however, is that everyone in a small community knows each other.

"When you're a critical access hospital, you tend to serve everyone in town and know people, which makes it hard," said Mark Bogen, chief financial officer and senior vice president of finance at South Nassau Communities Hospital in Oceanside, N.Y.

Bogen and Keith Tobin, vice president of sales and marketing for healthcare revenue cycle management company Medorizon, share their collection tips for small, community hospitals (which can be applied to collections at larger hospitals, too):

  • Explain. "If you can explain upfront with reasonable accuracy what costs might be and what insurance covers and doesn't cover, it helps," said Bogen. Hospital bills can be confusing and frustrating to patients, so take the time to help them understand what they'll see when they get their bills, added Tobin.
  • Collect upfront. If possible, collect deductibles and payments upfront, said Tobin and Bogen. "The best time to collect is while the patient is right in front of you," Tobin said. But if upfront payment is not an option, at least get all the correct information from patients so that you'll have what is needed for your collection tools to work properly.
  • Make it easy. Give patients a payment method that will be easy for them, said Bogen. At South Nassau Communities Hospital, patients can pay in advance or after their procedures through the hospital's website. "Anything you can do to make it easy for the individual to pay always added to your continued success," he said. "We also have a prompt payment program so that anyone willing to pay upfront receives a discount on their overall bill. People really like those kind of programs. It encourages upfront payments rather than chasing people down for payments afterwards."

Train your staff. In any community, but especially small ones, it's important for your staff to be sensitive to patients, so take the steps to align your organization's culture to be patient-centric, said Bogen. "It's important to leave an open mind for schedules and the hardships people go through because, after all, you're doing a service for the community." The money will follow if you put patients first.