One of the trickiest things about healthcare collections is making difficult telephone calls since anything that involves money (and often very large sums of money) has a high chance of being emotionally charged. Many medical practices dread having to deal with this kind of conversation. However, it happens surprisingly often. If you are required to call a patient and ask him or her to make a payment on an outstanding medical bill, it can be extremely challenging to know what you should say and the best way to handle the potential reaction that you’ll receive. So, here are some top tips for dealing with the emotionally charged situation.
Preparation Is Key
Before you even pick up the phone, make sure that all of the patient’s notes and files have been reviewed and are nearby. Having a pen and paper at hand to take notes during the call is also good practice because it will help in the event of a follow-up call.
Avoid making this kind of phone call at a time when you could be distracted by other problems. Losing focus while you are speaking to the patient can make the situation a lot worse. Don’t allow your mind to wander and remain professional no matter what else is going on.
Listening Is Just as Important as Talking
While getting your message across to the patient is the whole point of the phone call, it’s just as important to listen carefully, too. When the patient explains his or her situation or problem, avoid interruptions, and if you need further clarification, wait until he or she has finished speaking first. You’ll get a clearer idea of the issues this way and the patient will feel less frustrated since he or she will know that he or she has been heard.
Whatever attitude you receive from the person on the other end of the phone, remember to always stay polite. Always speak respectfully and listen empathetically because this will make the call go much more smoothly.
Recognizing Hard Calls
Although you might think that the most difficult phone calls will be those where you are yelled at, in fact, the most challenging are often those where the patient is extremely upset, confused or distracted. If you identify that things aren’t going well, ask if a call at another time might be more helpful.
Letting It Go
When you’ve been talking to patients who are potentially angry or upset at receiving a money-chasing phone call, it can be difficult to let the emotions go once you’ve hung up. Write up the call, take a breath, and just let it go. Otherwise, you risk becoming stressed and distracted from your work.
Taking Payments Over the Phone
While making healthcare collection calls, it makes sense to have a way of taking a payment from the patient then and there over the phone rather than relying on the patient to make payment on his or her own at a later time. A virtual terminal will enable you to enter the patient’s card details immediately to obtain real-time authorization.
While handling healthcare collections calls can be a steep learning curve, over time, you will become more experienced and learn the negotiation skills, listening skills, and empathy you require to achieve the right results. By having the right attitude toward nonpaying patients, and by offering the opportunity to take payment right there as part of the telephone call, you can greatly improve your practice’s revenue.