Analysis: Spring may be the optimum time for patient collections

Medical practices seeking to maximize revenue should do everything they can to collect patient payments in the first three months of the year, an athenahealth analysis suggests.

For the analysis, researchers examined 3.2 million visits by commercially insured patients to cardiology and orthopedic specialists in 2015.

The analysis found patient obligation was highest in January, with 53 percent of visits reimbursed, followed by February (45 percent) and March (43 percent). In comparison, patient obligation was 25 percent for visits held in December. Athenahealth said this is likely because most patients haven't reached their deductibles early in the year.

The analysis also found patient payments peaked in March at $17.1 million. That compared to $12.9 million in December and $13.2 million in January.

At the same time, reimbursement owed to providers from insurers and patients increased over the year, according to the analysis. Beginning in January, the reimbursement per visit was $141 and increased to $153 in February and $155 in March. By December, the reimbursement per visit was $197. Athenahealth said this may be because patients wait to receive expensive care until they have reached their deductibles.

In light of these findings, athenahealth concludes providers should always have skilled financial counselors in place — but this is especially important earlier in the year.


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