Published 7/1/2014
Howard Mevis

Four Steps to Improve Your Bottom Line

Sometimes, taking simple steps can result in big payoffs—particularly when it comes to the bottom line. The following tips can help improve cash flow, reduce expenses, and keep your practice Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA)-compliant.

Know what you’re owed. Patients’ out-of-pocket costs are increasing. Your staff should know each patient’s payment responsibilities before the patient checks in.

Collect copayments at the time of service. The costs of billing and collecting relatively small copayment amounts can be substantial, particularly when you consider the charges for printing invoices and envelopes, postage, and staff time for calculating the bill, inserting the invoice into the envelope, and following up on payment. Alternatively, outsourcing this work to a service bureau also incurs an expense.

Orthopaedic surgeons may be surprised at the total costs of mailing invoices to patients to gain payment. Invoicing patients, rather than collecting copayments at the time of service, also results in payment delays and may have an impact on the practice’s cash flow.

One solution might be to use an online portal to collect patient payments. Mobile devices using “bank apps” can expedite funds transfer without the cost of credit card processing charges.

Reduce credit card processing fees. More patients are making payments by credit card, and credit card processing costs can add up. But no two processing services charge the same. One vendor may offer a low rate but charge more for service items, while another may charge for administration and setup but waive other fees. If a substantial number of patients in a practice pay using credit cards, processing fees can be substantial. Negotiate for savings or find another processing service. Using the AAOS Revenue Management Program (www.gatewayedi.com/aaos) can also help reduce credit card processing fees.

Stay HIPAA-compliant. HIPAA covers payments from payers, too. A practice that receives paper documentation and remittances with patient documentation from payers may have a patient privacy issue to resolve. Find out whether payers support the new HIPAA operating rules for standardized electronic funds transfer and electronic remittance advice transactions.

Practices should also be prepared to receive electronic fund transfers. This can have a positive impact on cash flow by reducing the time frame before funds can be accessed and used.

Howard Mevis is director of the AAOS department of electronic media, evaluation programs, course operations, and practice management. He can be reached at mevis@aaos.org