In my last article, “Financial Report Of Findings Made Easy”, I outlined three payment options when reviewing the financial plan with the patient. Here is a short recap of the scripting I used in that article.
“Amber, we can take that total you see here and you have three choices on how to pay. Our first option is monthly payments. Our second option, which most of our patients choose, is a down payment followed by smaller monthly payments. And finally if you prefer, our third option is to pay in full. Amber, before I go any further through the plan, which of these options do you feel works best for you?”
So why is it so important that we do this rather than opting for the pay-per-visit, block of visits or pre-pay model? Think about it, when people have to pay-per-visit or pre-pay for care, they have to make another financial decision. You are reminding them again of the cost of care. They then have to decide if there is still value in them continuing with their treatment plan. By giving your patient a choice they also don’t feel pressured and you don’t feel like a salesman. They really appreciate the options and it allows them to make the choice for themselves. You may wonder why I said, “which, most of our patients choose” for option two. I’ll explain the psychology behind these payment options:
1. Monthly Payments: Most people pay their bills monthly, so when you offer a monthly payment option to your patients, you’re not asking them to do anything outside of what they do normally. People typically stick to a monthly budget and by establishing a monthly payment habit into their household budget you will see increased patient retention. Monthly payments also results in the highest transition rate to the next phase of care. Why? Because, when people are making monthly payments, it’s not a new purchase decision for them to make, therefore they aren’t reminded of the cost yet again.
2. A Down Payment Followed By Smaller Monthly Payments: When people make a larger down payment, they feel more committed to care (just like people who pre-pay for care), however it also establishes a monthly payment habit in their household budget. As I stated above this is a key factor in transitioning patients to the next step of their treatment plan. Bottom line, it’s the best option for committing them to care as well as making it easy to transition them to the next phase of their care plan.
This is why when reviewing the financial options with patients, I plant the seed that most people choose this option. “Our second option, which most of our patients choose, is a down payment followed by smaller monthly payments.”
Imagine this, your patient has been making monthly payments for the last six months and now it’s time to transition them to the next phase of care. You say to the patient, “Amber, you’re now ready for wellness care! Your monthly payment of $350 will now be only $175, congratulations on your results!” By coupling good clinical news with good financial news (their budget for care is lower and they get to continue with care) is how you will see your patient retention skyrocket!
3. Pre-Payment: Although pre-pays may sound great, the reality is that most people do not pre-pay for things in their everyday life. I’m sure you would agree that most people in today’s world make monthly payments and only a small percentage of people pay for large purchases in full. You also have to realize that if a patient does pre-pay, it’s not your money until the services are rendered. If they have to discontinue care for any reason, say they move away, the doctor now has the unpleasant task of writing a large refund check. This is never a good feeling for anyone.
In my 18+ years of experience, I have seen practices that focus on pre-pay programs that are in constant need of new patients because they need to keep selling programs of care. This also results in collections going up and down. Simply put, the pre-pay option is given as a payment option for the small percentage of people it aligns with.
Automated Payments: In order for any payment option to be successful, you must automate the way payments are being collected. I recommend using a compliant and secure system to store patient billing information that will automate their payments. Whether the patient has chosen to pay-per-visit, is purchasing additional services or products outside of their program of care, or they’ve chosen a monthly payment, the payment must be automated to reduce the constant reminder of money.
The error in having a patient stop at the front desk and pull out their wallet every time they come in for care is that it creates a new purchasing decision EVERY SINGLE TIME. This makes the patient question themselves as to whether they should stop or continue care every single time as well. When you remove situations that cause the patient to “think” about money, it will not only increase patient retention and care plan compliance, it will also greatly increase your cash collections!
Financial Policies: When reviewing your financial policies with your patients you should keep a matter of fact tone. If you have a poverty mentality, meaning when you talk to patients about money you may come across apologetic in your tone. You should train in this area until you're rock solid in your delivery.
When you check into a hotel do they ask you, “Would you like to leave a credit card for incidentals?” No, they absolutely do not ask you. They say (in a matter of fact tone), “We require a credit card for incidentals.” You hand over your card, they store it and have you sign a form authorizing any additional charges. Keep this scenario in mind when you’re reviewing your financial policies in your office. You also should make sure you’re using a compliant form when getting the patient's signature to authorize the automated payments. Review the scripting below on the best practices for communicating this to your patients.
• Monthly Payments: “Amber, because you chose a payment option that involves a monthly payment, we require a credit card that we will use to run your auto-debit payments on the same date each month.” Then get their signature authorizing the payment schedule and billing type and store this in their patient file.
• One-Time Payments: “Amber, I’d like to review our payment policy with you. Our practice uses a program that allows us to securely store your bank account information or credit card. We only process your payment per your authorization. Not only is this a more convenient option for our patients, as they are able to check out faster, but their bill is always paid on time, without having to worry about it.” Then get their signature authorizing the payment for any balances due or specified amount and billing type.
Combining monthly payments along with automated payments sounds like a dream doesn't it? It doesn't have to be a dream, it can be your reality! As CA’s we want to focus more on the patients and we can do that when we streamline patient finances. It will free up your time and allow you to be able to focus on patient care, patient education, scheduling appointments and the other one hundred things you have to get done! You also get the added bonus of higher patient compliance and retention, as well as reducing those annoying patient recalls that take up so much of your valuable time.
>> To download a sample care plan visit: CashPractice.com/Plan
About the author: Holly Jensen has served the chiropractic profession for 18+ years as a CA and Office Manager to Dr. Miles Bodzin, Founder & CEO of Cash Practice® Systems. For the past decade, she has served as a Professional Speaker and Chief Operations Officer for Cash Practice Systems where she has trained thousands of DC’s and CA’s on how to run a cash-based practice. Cash Practice Systems is the #1 Chiropractic Platform for Increasing Patient Loyalty. For more information, visit www.CashPractice.com. Holly may be contacted at 877-343-8950 or Holly@CashPractice.com