Ask politely, but firmly


Develop workstation aids

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By Elizabeth W. Woodcock

Patient Collections:
12 Strategies for Success

We’ll explore strategies that will help you learn how to:
  • Ask for payment politely, but firmly
  • Institute payment plans via credit card on file
  • Implement additional strategies to help you start seeing tangible changes to your bottom line!

Collecting patient due balances (including self-pay, high deductibles and health savings accounts) is in the current top 10 list of priorities for practice administrators, according to the Medical Group Management Association*. Assigning that level of priority to just one of the many issues that you, as an administrator, must manage may seem out of the ballpark, but your practice’s bottom line is dependent upon it.

Insurance products in the commercial and government sectors are being sold with high deductibles, often exceeding $5,000, which was unheard of just a few short years ago. Business rating firm Moody’s states, "Today's high deductibles are tomorrow's bad debt." *

As a practice management consultant for more than 20 years, I couldn’t agree more. Improving collections performance without adding unnecessary practice expense is a question I hear frequently from the physicians, managers and administrators. The market has changed, and it’s time to reengineer our internal processes to align with today’s reimbursement landscape.

Just hiring more staff in the business office is not sufficient; it’s time to take action that improves your practice’s collection function from top to bottom.

ACA Insurance Marketplace Plans: Average Medical Deductible, in Plans with Combined Medical and Prescription Drug Deductibles.*



Ask politely, but firmly

Strategy #1

Ask politely, but firmly

Practice asking for money; it’s a skill that is learned, not one that comes naturally.

Asking your patients to pay is a true art form. When asking patients for payment, be pleasant but steady in your approach. Never laugh, but offering a warm smile is appropriate. Always look the patient in the eye and maintain eye contact throughout the payment interaction.

While some patients will never want to pay, others are prepared to tender payment at the time of service. Front office staff, often as instructed by management, have a tendency to brush off patients because of the complexity of the transaction. Our payment system is indeed complex, but it’s time to stop making that an excuse. The bottom line: if you don’t ask, you won’t get paid.


Use an unwavering tone when asking for payment.




Develop workstation aids

Strategy #2

Develop workstation aids

Install tools that can expedite the payment process.

Replace old credit card terminals tethered to the wall with streamlined devices that are easily accessible at each workstation. Consider offering flexible payment applications like payment plans, card on file and online payments, deployed with an automated receipting process. To further streamline the process for your staff, integrate the new payment tools into the daily reconciliation process.


Spend a day at the front office observing the workflow; implement changes that reduce barriers to collections and make the process easy and flexible—for both patients and staff.


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