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Selecting collections agency partners

Panelists at HFMA's ANI 2013 share tips on how to create a partnership

Selecting the “right” collection agency partner is critical for providers, a panel of experts said Monday at the Healthcare Financial Management Association’s ANI 2013 conference in Orlando, Fla.

The panelists shared with their audience tips and things to think about spanning the lifecycle of the provider-collection agency relationship.

[See also: Keys to a successful Point of Service collections program]

First things first, said Kevin Lonergan, the chief executive officer of Grant & Weber’s revenue solutions division. Before beginning a collection agency partner search, providers must meet internally as a team and figure out what they need, what they want and what is possible.

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“Truth be told, this is a relationship. This is a marriage,” he said. “So we need to make sure, and the responsibility truly is an extension of your business office.”

After providers have met with their internal teams and have determined what their goals are, the interview process – for both sides – begins.

Providers should learn about their potential partners who their partners are; what the proposed implementation process will be and how it will be accomplished; how the agency handles compliance; what technology does the agency use and what technology requirements will be needed; agreed upon standards and measurements; and what feedback will the agency provide.

[See also: The changing landscape of collections processes for hospitals]

With the focus being on patient experience, it is important for providers to examine a potential partner’s staff, said Chad Lemke, the chief operations officer of Array Services Group.

“In healthcare collections, reputation is everything, and this is where doing some homework can really pay off,” he said.

The potential partner should be able to demonstrate its staff is receiving healthcare-specific training and that they understand the full revenue cycle of a healthcare provider, he said. Having a dedicated team that works on healthcare accounts is ideal.

The staff, Lemke said, is probably the single most important point in the patient experience. “These are the people who are talking with your patients.”

Once providers have selected a collections agency partner, the work doesn’t stop there. Open and regular communications should be part of the continuing relationship, said Terry Armstrong, president of State Collection Service.

Visit the collection agency’s facility at least once a year, he said, and be receptive to the agency’s recommendations, because the agency works with many healthcare providers and has best practices solutions to offer. And be responsive to the agency, he said, because it is operating as an extension of the provider’s business.