Optometric Management Tip # 398   -   Wednesday, September 23, 2009
Preventing Patient Accounts Receivable

Last week's tip focused on collecting past due balances from patients, but it would be far better to prevent the debts from occurring in the first place. So let's examine the most common reasons why unpaid amounts end up on the patient's ledger in the first place and what steps you can take to collect more fees at the time of service.

Office policy

I assume you have a policy that requires all fees (not billed to insurance plans) to be paid at the time of service or, in the case of optical products, that balances are paid at the time of dispensing.

If you don't have a policy like that, implement it today. There is simply no reason to offer credit directly through your office when national credit card firms are so plentiful and easy to do business with. It doesn't matter if your practice is in a small town or if the local population has lower incomes, there is no need to offer any payment plans. Any slight improvement in sales will be offset by bad debt that you end up working to collect and then writing off.

How does bad debt happen?

Even with a pay as you go policy, there will still be plenty of dollars owed to your practice by individual patients. Here's why:

How to prevent bad debt

Here are my suggestions for how to minimize patient accounts receivable, especially due to the reasons noted above.

Best wishes for continued success,

Neil B. Gailmard, OD, MBA, FAAO
Chief Optometric Editor, Optometric Management