A few weeks ago, I was checking what was happening with shortfalls and excess since the start of the year. Using a single private consultant surgeon as an example:
Week ending Friday January 22nd: out of 15 consultations 4 came back with excess / shortfall deductions totalling £575. So for a total of £2,500 worth of outpatient consultations £575 or 23% came back short. Looking back to the same week in 2015, the number of shortfalls / excess were considerably less.
The question as to why this is happening is not the immediate concern although I will blog about that next week if anyone wants me to?
The concern is what you should do about it.
If 23% of submitted invoice values continue to come back as shortfall or excess, the downside and potential loss to a consultant surgeon is significant.
What to do about it?
The very first thing to do is to make sure the patient has been invoiced for the amount due immediately. If payment is not received within a week then there is only one subsequent single course of action.
Phone the patient.
I do. Once I have the patient on the phone I take payment via a debit or credit card.
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. The point is to ensure he recovers the shortfall / excess efficiently.
That means speaking to the patient.
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 care. This is not a debtor I’m talking to on the telephone. It is a PATIENT!
The long suffering med-sec really won’t have the time to do this as professional and caring as she undoubtedly is. The majority of medical secretaries won’t want to phone patients for money and will be thinking this is the least enjoyable part of her job.
What if the consultant doesn’t employ someone to tackle this? What if they don’t do anything?
Assume it’s not £575 or 23% a week or £27,600 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) and allows for some patients paying without being contacted.
Thats still £13,800 per annum.
What’s significant is that when speaking to a group of private consultant surgeons I asked what they considered the biggest threat to their practice(s). Most popular is the anticipated further reduction in fees paid by private medical insurance companies. There is little if anything that can be done about that.
The second concern, however, is the number of shortfalls and excess. It’s becoming a big challenge. A challenge that will get bigger in my view.
At this point, empirical evidence suggests its potentially leaving the back door wide open 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.