Should Front Desk Staff Handle Billing and Collections?
It’s common for the front desk staff of small outpatient practices to also be expected to manage billing and collections. And given the lack of adequate business training in the typical physical therapy curriculum, it’s certainly understandable why a practice owner would staff this way. On the surface, it seems to make economic sense.
During 2015 and 2016, a record number of practices that used Systems 4PT for EMR (but whose front desk employees managed all billing and collection activity) asked Systems 4PT to begin managing their billing and collections for them. These practices represent tens of millions of dollars of revenue.
To determine how front desk managed collections compared to Systems 4PT managed collections, we compared valid statistical samples of our users who manage their own billing and collections against our users who allow us to manage their billing and collections activity. What happened when these practices outsourced their billing and collections activity to Systems 4PT?
After 3 Months, Collections Were 26% Higher
With Systems 4PT now managing billing and collections for these practices, their collections per claim for the first 3 months averaged 26% higher versus what was collected by the front desk operator during the prior 12 months.
Impressive. But was this increase in collections simply “catch up” of old AR? What was the long-term trend?
As of April 2017, Systems 4PT had been managing the billing and collections for this same group of practices for an average of 9 months.
After 9 Months, Collections Were 19% Higher
This increase does not mean that front desk operators aren’t working hard to collect receivables. Instead, it is proof that they are already busy with their full-time jobs of onboarding new patients, verifying benefits, scheduling, providing customer service, coordinating the day-to-day activity of the practice and the therapists, and collecting patient payments.
Collecting money from payers requires detailed analysis, long telephone hold times, and “taking-it-to-the-mat” arguments with those payers. There is no time for this in the average practice, and patient service suffers when the front desk staff is tied to the phone.
Specifically, when Systems 4PT manages practice billing and collections, many more collection calls are made (we graph the rate of collection calls made on behalf of our customers). Our findings are relevant for every small practice.
For EVERY practice in our analysis, Systems 4PT increased collections by more than what we charged (and for less than the cost of hiring a biller)