Take this ONE client as an example.
Out of 15 consultations 4 (four) came back with excess / shortfall deductions totalling £575 in one week. So for a total of £2,500 worth of revenue from outpatient consultations £575 or 23% came back short. Looking back to the same week last year, the number of shortfalls / excess were roughly half this figure both in percentage and value terms.
The question as to why this is happening is not the concern. The concern is what are you going to do about it for if 23% continues the downside and potential loss to the consultant is significant. There is only one real way to ensure the patient makes good the excess / shortfall and mitigates this risk.
And that is to phone them.
Sure you can write letters and even email but nothing gets a response like a ringing telephone. Most patients are unaware of the issue (yes I know when they open their policy they are made aware of excess values) but some think this is an issue between them and their insurance company. In other words, the patient thinks they need to pay the insurance company because the consultant gets paid in full by the insurance company. There are variations on this but the crucial point for the consultant is not to establish why; its to ensure he recovers the shortfall / excess efficiently.
But if telephoning the patient is the most efficient way to tackle the issue, it does not automatically follow its the easiest. It has to be done professionally and with due diligence. The long suffering med-sec really won’t have the time to do this as professional and caring as she undoubtedly is. I promise you faithfully, she won’t want to phone patients for money and will be thinking this is the least enjoyable part of her job.
There is an alternative though: do nothing. Some patients actually will pay but this assumes they a) are aware of the shortfall / excess and b) make it good straight away.
What if they don’t?
Assume it’s not £575 or 23% a week or £27.6k a year (£575 multiplied by 48 – not 52 weeks as you will have 4 weeks off a year). Assume instead its 10% for 24 weeks (i.e. roughly half of the current numbers) and allows for some patients paying without being contacted.
The potential losses for the consultant is this case reduce to £13,800 per annum. Thats a chunk of change in anybody’s book still.
What’s significant is that at a number of client meetings recently I’ve asked what the client considered the biggest threat to the practice during 2014. Most popular was a further reduction in private insurance fees. That may indeed turn out to be a big problem.
But at this point, empirical evidence suggests its potentially leaving the back door wide open so to speak and enduring £13,800 worth of potential losses right off the bottom line.
I’d be really interested to hear from anyone who is seeing an increase in shortfalls etc and their views on remedies.