Most patient collection letters I’ve seen come off very threatening and standoffish. They are written to intimidate. For example, they’ll say, “Final Notice” or “your account will be sent to collections if you don’t respond.” The notion is, “you better pay now or else… ”
We used to send out letters with these words and most of them were ignored. My guess is that at best, 1% of parents would respond to them. We probably offended more parents than those that actually sent payment. Clearly, this was the wrong approach. With this process I learned that the harder we push, the more resistance we got. Which is counterproductive.
The way I see it, there are two reasons why someone hasn’t paid their medical bill:
- They’ve genuinely missed the statement or put it away and forgot to pay it; in which case, we don’t necessarily want to make threats, but rather inform them of their delay.
- They are purposely blowing you off. If this is the case then:
- They don’t have the means to pay it out-right.
- They don’t understand why they are responsible for the balance and not their insurance company.
- They’re too confused with your bill and the boatload of other bills from all the different providers they visited. As we know all providers and hospitals bill separately, so when a parent is not aware of how the system works, getting five different bills from five different providers is overwhelming. So they put the bill away. Out of sight, out of mind.
- Or they are simply, purposely blowing you off.
In a recent paper published titled, The next wave of change for US health care payments, McKinsey&Company [somewhat] agrees with me. Their paper mentions that many assume incorrectly that consumers are unable or unwilling to pay their health care bills. The research suggest otherwise. The paper contends that lack of financing options, inefficiencies in billing practices, and consumer confusion are all major drivers of nonpayment.
With this in mind, we have a different approach in patient collections. My focus is still wanting for patients to pay their bills, but instead of threatening them with legal action, or sending them to collections, I approach it by trying to offer them help. By lowering our guards a bit and reaching out rather than growing aggressive with every letter seemed to be a better more human approach.
Here are a couple of examples of our letters. Click on the highlighted link below for details. Feel free to use them anyway you’d like.
As always, I’d love to get your feedback. What is your approach? Have you found an effective way to approach patient collection? How about your letters? Are they effective?
Likewise, I’d like to hear you feedback if you think I’m full of it, if you think I’m missing the mark or if you don’t think this is a very effective way to approach patient collection letters.