Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Why Do Patients Leave Our Care Before They Got Better? Part #3

When patients have money issues, we may think there is no way to keep them in our practice. But perhaps we need to think more creatively about this. There may be several ways you can give these patients more affordable options so that they will keep coming. Here are a few ideas.

  1. Time of service discounts
Some practitioners only take cash for services rendered, which means that you have one price for all everyone. If, however, you are billing insurance or any type of 3rd-party payers, it is legal to offer a time-of-service discount or 10-15%. Why? If people pay you at the time of receiving services, you don’t have to do any further paperwork or send out any billing, which requires time and expense for your office. In that case, most states allow you to give patients who pay you up front a discount for making your life easier.
  1. Sliding scale payments
If you wish to go to the trouble, you can create a sliding scale similar to what is used by organizations such as Planned Parenthood, which charges fees based on your income-per-household. You may choose to require some type of proof for the discount, or take people at their word.
  1. Package deals
In Colorado, we are allowed to give package pricing, as long as there is a signed statement that the patient understands they can get any remaining fees returned to them if they discontinue services prior to using up the total amount. This is a good deal for patients and has the advantage of giving you a larger of income amount up front. Then it’s up to you to do such a good job that the patient wouldn’t think of leaving before all the services are rendered!
  1. Clinic “membership” discounts
One clinic I have worked with locally, offers a 15% discount for all services if you become a member of their clinic. What this implies is that the patient will get at least one treatment per month for being a member.
  1. Monthly payment schedule with a credit card
If the person says they can only afford $XX per month, but you know they need more treatment, they can give you a credit card to bill over however many months are necessary at an agreed upon rate per month. Get this in writing and signed by both you and the patient!
  1. Bill something to insurance
Does the patient have insurance and you have not explored whether they have acupuncture benefits? Insurance patients typically are willing to take more treatments more often than those who are paying on their own.
  1. Partial trades
Does the patient have a skill or service that would be useful to you? Explore what you could do outside the world of cash. You will be surprised at how often a patient could trade you something that you want or need outside the cash economy.
  1. Space treatments further apart
As a last option, you can suggest spacing treatment further apart, unless you think that will cause the whole treatment plan to be ineffective for the patient. You might also consider switching to herbs-only treatment if that is less expensive.

There are eight options for working with patients who complain about your prices or their inability to pay. You don’t always have to lose a patient because of financial limitations if you can be creative!

Final advice: There are lots of things you can do to improve your patient communication and education, clinic and business operations, and creative financial options, in order to keep more patients who walks in the front door from getting a couple treatments and then walking out the back!

Last but not least, maintain your interest and passion about the medicine and about helping patients heal! Keep learning and keep improving your clinical skills. Do your best with each patient, every time. Patients can feel that and instinctively know this! Make them believe they’d be crazy to be seeing anyone else!

Good luck and best success in your practice.
Thanks for reading.


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