We’ll be looking at aspects of improving rural hospital payments from patient collections, both technical and non-technical, in a series of articles. Today, we’ll look at one technology that solves a plaguing problem: finding patients after services have been performed.
We’ll look at what this simple process called ‘skip tracing’ is, how it’s properly performed, and who should be responsible for performing it. It’s really all quite simple.
For a Rural Hospital Payments from Patients Matter
Wikipedia defines skip tracing as “the process of locating a person’s whereabouts”. For our purposes it’s better described as: locating the most accurate contact information for someone; including the best phone number and their current address. The reason why this should be done is simple; if you can’t locate patients your likelihood of recovering their balances drops to near zero.
One misconception about skip tracing is that ‘washing’ addresses against the NCOA (National Change of Address) database is the same as skip tracing. Nothing could be further from the truth. The NCOA is for when people move from one location to another, and fill out those little white cards to inform the post office of their “change of address”. Washing addresses against the NCOA is a requirement for anyone who does mass mailings; namely because the post office wants to assure the address the letter is going to is properly formatted. You can think of it this way: the NCOA is for people who want to be found.
Skip tracing, on the other hand, is for people who are difficult to find, or perhaps don’t want to be found. There’s nothing nefarious about patients perhaps being a little harder to find, it’s just a fact of revenue cycle life. And if patients can’t be reminded of the funds they now owe your hospital, their life fills with all the other obligations that do get their attention. And your bill becomes a faded memory.
Communication Increases Rural Hospital Payments
Communication is the key – and skip tracing is the means to assure that communication, at least a high percentage of the time. As an example, one Florida county water utility had customers with unpaid bills who left no forwarding address, no phone number, and no other identifiable information behind. Proper skip tracing was introduced, and their recovery rate increased seventeen fold. Skip tracing is vital to any rural public service, and with the constraints now on rural hospitals technology solves some of that financial pressure.
Implementation of skip tracing is simple. It should always be used at the collection phase of your patient payer balances. It’s provided as a standard function with expert collection providers, because it’s so effective in helping recover hospitals’ much needed funds. Simply be sure your provider is using real skip tracing, ask whose database(s) they’re using, and quickly validate the firm on the internet. And ask for copies of skip tracing that’s being performed, so you can spot check your patient balances are getting all the attention (and communication) they rightly deserve. After all, this is your hospital’s money – you have a right to know what’s going on with your accounts.
Skip tracing is a rural hospital tool which will dramatically increase recovery of your patient payer balances. Sources for real skip tracing are easy to verify, and the results (or ‘skips’) should be readily available to you for inspection as the owner of your accounts.
Implement skip tracing today, and see your results in more improved revenue cycle recovery.