For physician practices looking for an added revenue stream, sometimes that flowing water can be closer than you think. A new kiosk-type device allows patients to fill out forms and swipe their cards to make co-pays right on the spot. As a result, data is entered more accurately and physicians can put an end to missed co-pays.
For physician practices looking for an added revenue stream, sometimes that flowing water can be closer than you think. Or as Dorothy said in the closing scene in “The Wizard of Oz,” you don’t have to look any further than your own back yard.
Chaim Indig, CEO of Phreesia, a New York firm that specializes in patient check-in, says that physicians are letting a lot of revenue walk out the door, or the revenue they’re collecting is costing them more than they realize. “Doctors tell me, ‘We’re pretty good at collecting co-pays. We get them 80 to 90 percent of the time,’ “ he says. “But that’s a lot of [lost] money.”
Finding Your "Lost Money"
Indig says his own firm’s health plan includes a $35 co-pay for a primary care physician. If that physician only collects co-pays 80% of the time and sees 20 patients a day, that’s $140 a day of lost revenue. “If you went to Wal-Mart and 20 percent of all customers decided not to pay for a couple of items, Wal-Mart would not be in business for very long,” he says. However, he adds, physicians don’t have to work any harder to recoup that $140.
The company has developed the PhreesiaPad, an orange touchscreen tablet that allows patients to tap a screen rather than fill out paper forms. More importantly, the tablet automatically verifies insurance eligibility and benefits, tells a patient what their co-pay is, or if there is an outstanding balance owed, and accepts payments using a card swipe.
“No one likes filing out those forms, and no one likes talking about money either,” Indig says. “If you had a choice of going to an ATM or walking into the bank and dealing with the teller, which would you pick? The ATM, right?” Indig says. “So why does anyone think people would prefer to stand in line, fill out a clipboard, and give over their credit card, and wait for someone to run it. They’d rather do it in their own privacy, deal with it themselves, and be done with it.”
A More Productive StreamGwinnett Center Medical Associates is an internal medicine practice based in Lawrenceville, Ga. Approximately 18 months ago, the practice began using the PhreesiaPad for patient check-in, and Shari Crooker, the practice administrator, says the difference before and after using the automated check-in tablet was like night and day.
“I used to have three people up front doing check in,” Crooker says. “It was very time consuming.” The office sees about 100 patients a day, she says, and while not all of them would need to fill out intake forms, it seemed like the staff was constantly copying seven pages or more of these intake forms. “Putting all of these things together into one clipboard was very time consuming, and most of the time [patients’] handwriting was illegible,” she says. “Lots of mistakes were being made, and we were not getting correct data.”
All of that has changed. Practice staff has become more efficient, and the practice is realizing a significant increase in revenue. Crooker says that using the automated patient check-in tablet has saved the practice staff approximately six to eight hours each week by eliminating interruptions to normal workflow. The practice is also up about $10,000 a month on time-of-service patient payments, collecting at least two additional co-pays per provider every day that previously went uncollected.
“Last year, we had 96 to 98 percent correct capture of our co-pays, where we didn’t have to bill the patient three months later because we figured out their co-pay had increased,” Crooker says. “And the patient would never pay [the increase].”
A Cost-Effective ToolCrooker says the practice started with two PhreesiaPads, and is now up to 10. There are no upfront costs, and the pads are free. Phreesia charges a flat 4% monthly fee for the service. “They don’t take anything out ahead of time. What batches at the end of the day is the exact amount that is put into my bank account at midnight, and it’s posted to my bank account the next day,” he explains.
Indig says approximately 10,000 physicians countrywide are currently using the PhreesiaPad in their practice. “Self-service kiosks have been game-changing for the airlines,” he says. “Same for the banking industry. Those machines don’t forget to ask you for your baggage fee. It’s the same with Phreesia. We don’t forget to ask.”