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10 Expert Medical Billing Tips for Independent Practices

This blog was published in July 2022 and was updated in February 2024

The financial success of your new independent practice depends on your ability to bill promptly and accurately as well as to make the payment process easy and convenient for your patients. To improve medical billing for small practices, you need to make sure you have proper systems in place and that you implement a variety of strategies to improve efficiency and increase the speed of reimbursement.

10 expert medical billing tips for small practices

Here are some helpful billing tips for new independent practices that will help increase reimbursement rates, increase patient pay rates, and help your staff save time.

1. Establish clear patient payment rules

You should set clear payment rules for your patients to ensure timely payment and reduce the likelihood of patient non-payment. You’ll want to ensure your patients understand if you offer payment plans, what forms of payment you accept, ways that patients can pay (such as through an online patient portal or a mobile app), and policies for non-payment and late payments. Once you’ve established these policies, communicate them to patients in intake forms, billing statements, and patient portals. A written policy that patients sign should be augmented by a staff member having a conversation with the patient regarding insurance payments and the patient’s potential financial responsibility.

2. Standardize billing procedures and rules for staff

Efficient and effective medical billing processes are part of your practice’s revenue cycle management. Having a healthy revenue cycle is critical to your continued successful operations, so you can make sure your practice is paid for the services you provide. 

To minimize confusion among staff and reduce the likelihood of medical billing errors, you should establish standardized patient billing rules. This means creating clear guidelines for coding, claims submission, and payment processes for your staff, and communicating them so everyone is on the same page. 

3. Optimizing team proficiency in the billing process

You must ensure that you and your practice team are all familiar with the billing process. Whether you use a separate medical billing software or are taking advantage of the billing features in your electronic health record (EHR) system, each member of your team should understand how it works. You probably have one or two staff members designated to be responsible for ongoing billing, but it always helps to have backups in case of vacations or other absences. You should also create training manuals that detail each step of the billing process and billing rules, so new staff can be onboarded quickly.

4. Verify your patient’s information

Before providing care to a patient, you must verify your patient’s information, including their insurance coverage. This information is confirmed at check-in to ensure records are current and accurate. Patient insurance coverage changes when they have switched employers or even just from year to year with the same plan. Verifying coverage from the first encounter with the patient can reduce medical billing errors after the visit is complete.

To verify patient insurance information quickly, you should implement a billing system that provides automated real-time eligibility (RTE) checks. This way, your staff doesn’t have to spend extra time checking patient insurance information manually.

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5. Speed up patient collection

Waiting for patients to pay is a major challenge that can impact the financial viability of your small practice. To speed up patient payments, you should provide an electronic option to make it easier for your patients to pay quickly. For example, you can accept patient co-pays at the time of service through online patient portals or a mobile app, and allow patients to pay with these methods after the appointment is complete. You can also have patients keep a payment method on file within their patient portal to improve payment collection. 

When sending medical bills to patients, you should detail the patient’s responsibility as well as anything that their insurance may have already paid so there are no misunderstandings as to what is owed and when. You should also clearly detail the specific services that were provided, how much the insurance company paid, and how much money the patient owes on the statement. Otherwise, your patients could get confused about what they owe, which could ultimately lead to non-payment.

6. Establish a patient communication workflow to follow up

You should make sure that you establish a communication workflow with patients who haven’t paid yet. You can create automated payment reminders and send them via email or text, and give patients an option to contact your office if they have questions about their bill. Providing your contact information on the statement will be especially important if the patient needs to voice a concern about their ability to pay their portion of the bill. 

7. Determine how to address non-paying patients 

You should establish clear policies to address non-paying patients, otherwise, you run the risk of not being reimbursed at all. Some practices charge late fees for patients who haven’t paid for 30, 60, and 90 days, and some practices set timelines on when a bill will be sent to collections.

Sending a patient account to a collections agency should be a last resort for your practice. Start with communicating with the patient, securely and confidentially, about their responsibility to pay and the timeframe in which they need to pay to avoid further action. Leave channels open for the patient to appeal insurance denials that they feel are inaccurate.

8. Stay informed about coding and compliance

Make sure that all coding is accurate and complete. Insurance claims can be denied when a number is transposed or incorrect coding results in a procedure or diagnosis that does not apply to the patient. 

9. Stay up to date with the news

Stay current on the latest rules and regulations regarding coding and billing. If you care for patients with Medicare or Medicaid, review all applicable proposed and final rules regularly.

10. Implement integrated EHR and medical billing software

To improve the speed of reimbursement from insurance providers, keep medical statements and records organized into one system. Ideally, you would have an integrated EHR and billing system that holds all patient charts and billing information. Billing systems automate billing tasks, manage claims, and provide billing analytics, reducing manual errors and saving time. EHR systems streamline patient records, billing data, and claim submissions, reducing paperwork and improving accuracy. By adopting an integrated EHR and billing system, you’ll benefit from faster payments from both patients and insurance companies so that you can reduce delays in reimbursement.

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