Your CA’s time is one of your most precious commodities so you want their time spent doing the things that really count. One place where many practices waste their CA’s precious time is when the patient is leaving the practice after they have seen the doctor doing things like printing out receipts for patients at every visit. I’ve even been to one busy practice where they had a CA who sat at a desk in a back room writing out receipts all day!
The traditional departure experience goes like this: The patient has an adjustment. They go to the front desk. The CA makes their next appointment. The CA bills them for their adjustment, takes payment, then prints (or writes) a receipt which they give to the patient. This is quite a time-consuming process for both the CA and the patient and in a busy practice leads to there being a line-up of patients waiting to depart. At the very least, it means your CA is focused on administration and not on the higher needs of the patient.
With a little planning, you can eliminate this entire process which makes the patient experience smooth and effortless while saving precious CA time. Let’s break this down and see how you can eliminate each step in this boring process.
1. Eliminate stop to book
The first step is to have your patients’ appointments pre-booked. This is usually quite easy as the doctor typically knows how often they are going to need to see the patient at least for the next 12 visits or so whether it be twice a week for 6 weeks or once a month for 12 months. Sometimes you may need to change your plan, but 9 times out of 10 the doctor’s planned schedule is about right. Once you pre-book, the patient only needs to stop at the front desk to make appointments 1 in 12 times or so. You are already saving an enormous amount of precious CA time. With good booking software like Spinalogic, making 12 appointments – or even 24 – is as easy as booking one.
2. Eliminate stop to pay
Step two is to use a payment system that means the patient doesn’t need to stop to pay. The most common way this has been done in the past is to use pre-payment. This can work OK but you do need to be careful that no misunderstandings arise.
For example, it is important that patients pre-pay for general services and not for a specific care plan. Registration Boards don’t like patients pre-paying for a care plan. They reason that if the patient improves unexpectedly fast, the doctor may end up giving care that isn’t necessary.
There is another problem that can arise if you offer a discount for pre-pay but give that discount at the end of care. This is a common way of giving the discount as the patient only gets the discount if they finish their program. Fair enough. The problem arises like this: Say your regular adjustment fee is $50. You tell the patient you’re going to give them 20 adjustments. The fee would normally be $1000. If they pre-pay, you offer them a 25% discount making the fee only $750. You start billing at $50 for the first 15 adjustments so using up their $750 and reduce to $0 for the last 5 visits giving them their discount. So far, so good. Now, if the patient stops care after 10 adjustments, they have used up $500 and have $250 left which you return. But the patient often doesn’t see it that way. To them, they’ve had only half of what they paid for and think they should get half back, or $375. And it doesn’t matter how you might try to explain it. How can you get around this? The best you can do is to clearly explain it up front and repeat it after a few weeks but even then you’ll meet some patients who simply don’t get it. And you have to make sure the amount being paid does not match the care program or the Board doesn’t like it.
A better solution
But there are better ways that avoid those problems. The first is what I call Retail Pre-Pay. It goes something like this. Your fee for an adjustment is $50. You say to the patient, “If you pay for 10 visits or more at one time, we’ll give you a 10% discount.” So the patient pays $500 or more and you take 10% off all services. This is very easy to set up in Spinalogic complete with reminders to stop the patient when their credit is getting low. It is completely de-synchronized from your care program. It works well and I highly recommend it.
The other even better approach is what we call Zero-Touch Payment. It goes like this: Patient pays for their adjustment. The CA says, “If you want, we can set up your credit card so you get automatically billed after each adjustment without having to stop. It’s really easy for you and because it’s good for us too, you get a 5% discount. Would you like to do that?” This is very popular with the patients, you can never lose any money, no discussion of fees is ever needed again and your books reconcile correctly first time at the end of every shift. Easiest. Fastest. Most accurate. My best recommendation. This is only available with Spinalogic.
So now we have removed the need to stop for appointment booking and the need to stop for payment. What about statements for the health fund?
3. Eliminate stop for receipts
Well in Spinalogic, that is solved too. At the beginning of every month, you just send all your patients their statements in a single batch. If they have email, it will land in their inbox. If not, it will print when they next come in. Either way, it is not your CA’s problem ever again.
So let’s review what we have done. Now, a patient stops to make an appointment only 1 in 12 visits (or more) and it takes no longer to make 12 than it does to make 1. If you use Zero-Touch Pay, they stop once ever to make a payment. And with batch delivery of statements, you will only have to manually produce a statement for those few patients who have lost their printed ones … and that is really only 2 or 3 a year.
What’s left for your CA to do on the way out? Whatever you want, maybe focus on patient education or promotion.
Give it a try and tell me how it works out for you. You don’t have to do it all at once. Each part will make a difference but when you get all three, the change is enormous as your CA just doesn’t need to be at the departure desk any more at all and you have reclaimed your CA’s precious time for the things that really count.
As always, I love to hear your feedback.
Yours in Chiropractic,