Smarten up your billing in 2024

These ten New Year resolutions will help your practice flourish in 2024. Simon Brignall picks out some ‘must dos’.

The beginning of a new year is a time to look to the future and opt to implement change or improvements. 

But even with a focus on what is ahead, it can also be a time to review what you have achieved and the challenges you have faced. 

So now we have waved goodbye to 2023 we can reflect on what has been a busy year for many of you in private practice. 

All the data shows that private practice is continuing to see increased demand because of pressures in the NHS and worrying headlines around waiting lists. 

Self-pay has remained at its elevated level and there has been an increase in activity from patients with private medical insurance.

 While increased demand is beneficial, managing this can often prove challenging. Busy practices sometimes hide issues around their medical billing; this is why cash flow does not always reflect this increased activity, which can be a common complaint from the consultants who contact us.

Take a look at my ten New Year’s resolutions for a better, more efficient practice in 2024. Even if you only adhere to a few of these in the next 12 months, it could make an amazing difference. 

 

1Sort your clinical coding

Review the way your work is being billed to ensure you are compliant with the rules and regulations that get communicated monthly from the Clinical Coding and Schedule Development group (CCSD). 

Insurer tariffs can also change monthly, and it takes diligence and a keen eye to ensure you are not leaving money on the table.

2Really know your operation

Ensure that you have a deep understanding of your practice on an operational level. In busy practice life, it can be all too easy to assume that your secretary has everything under control, when, in fact, they are struggling to keep their head above water.

Remember a medical secretary’s workload includes patient bookings, inquiries, record keeping, scheduling theatres and diagnostic tests, invoicing and all aspects of credit control.  

I often speak to practitioners who have engaged us after their secretary has departed and it is only then when they realise the scale of the debt problem. 

If too much practice-specific knowledge is invested in one person, this can be detrimental to the future-proofing of the practice. 

By outsourcing this key role, the secretary can focus on the patient’s clinical journey without the need to have those difficult commercial discussions. 

3Invoice quickly

See that your work is invoiced as soon as possible. Prompt, accurate billing shows the patient that you run a well organised and conscientious practice, which can further strengthen the patient/practice relationship. 

Late invoices can be seen as a lack of professionalism by the patient and can impact their willingness to pay. 

With regards to private medical insurance (PMI) invoicing, some major insurers now have timelines for invoice submittal, which, if missed, can lead to loss of income.

Taking a structured, timely approach to your invoicing will ensure that you have a consistent cash flow and assist with your debt reduction. 

4Don’t get bogged down

Make sure that you spend as much time as possible focusing on your core skill set, which is treating and looking after the patient. 

Separating the clinical and revenue sides of the practice as much as possible, improves the patient experience and reflects best on the practice. 

Outsourcing procedures such as billing frees up your’s and your secretary’s precious time, enabling more time to concentrate on giving the best care.

5Check pricing clarity

Make sure that your price structure/policy is clear and that your patients are made aware of it before commencing treatment, so there is no room for ambiguity when it comes to settling the bill. 

A clearly defined fee structure is not only a key component of the Competition and Markets Authority’s rules, but also a vital stage in the patient’s journey and will help the practice ensure its invoices are settled in a timely fashion. 

6Chase, chase, chase

Ensure that your practice has a robust process for chasing any outstanding invoices on a consistent and continual basis until they are paid in full. 

Otherwise, you will continue to experience a high level of bad debts. Debt levels of a private practice are typically at 20%, but can run an awful lot higher. 

Our average bad debt rate at Civica Medical Billing and Collec­tion is less than 0.5%, which is a 90% improvement on the private practice average.

7Combat DNAs

A downside to the growth in self-funded activity over the last couple of years has been an increase in ‘Did Not Attends’ (DNAs) for some practices. 

To combat this, many practices have implemented a policy of taking payment in advance for self-pay patients. 

Consider whether this system would be of benefit to your practice. It is important to be aware of any bad payers so you can decide if you want to continue seeing them to avoid compounding the problem. 

8Manage patient information

Ensure you have management information on where your patients are referred from and whether they are private medically insured, UK self-pay, from embassies or overseas self-payers. 

It is only by having access to accurate information about the composition of your practice that you will be able to make informed decisions about your practice for the future.

9Ensure you have a robust infrastructure

See that you have a robust infrastructure in place to do all the above with a secure IT system, backed up on a daily basis, to help you achieve this. Then you will have peace of mind if the tax inspectors come calling. 

10Consider the outsource solution

If you find you cannot manage all of the above then you need to consider whether you should join thousands of other consultants who have outsourced this crucial element to a professional billing company. 

Civica Medical Billing and Collection is the largest medical billing company in the UK – built over 30 years on a foundation of dedicated account management and meeting the needs of a modern private practice.

Simon Brignall (right) is director of business development at Civica Medical Billing and Collection