Regardless of what you call it, there is a significant opportunity for agencies willing to make the investment in an early-out, self-pay, or extended business office operation, according to a pair of experts who spoke on the topic during a webinar last week.
While the service goes by many different names, that should not stop companies from making an investment in a self-pay operation, because not only are there huge revenue upsides, but also the potential to create lasting, long-term partnerships with clients beyond the traditional collection agency-healthcare provider relationship, the speakers said.
A copy of the webinar recording, which was sponsored by PDCflow, can be accessed below.
“The upside can be huge,” said Jay Gonsalves from Action Collection Agency of Boston, one of the webinar’s speakers. “Once you get locked in, because of how deep you will marry yourself to the client, your value as an agency is driven to a better place if you have this mix of business.”
To be fair, both speakers said that while the upside is significant, there is a lot of work that goes into building an effective self-pay operation.
“It is a completely different type of business,” than third-party collections, said Pamela Kirchner, the chief executive officer of BCA Financial Services. “With early-out collections, you need to provide excellent customer service. It’s a different mindset and you need to be extremely flexible in looking for a different type of employee.”
Early-out or self-pay collections are generally done on a first-party basis, with the agency representing itself as an extension of the healthcare provider. As well, the collections are being attempted prior to default, which requires a softer approach to the interactions and communications. The relationship dynamic between agency and provider is also deeper, the speakers said. For example, the reconciliation of accounts is bigger in self-pay than in third-party collections, as is payment reporting, Kirchner said. Clients also want to make sure that individuals are satisfied with their interactions with self-pay representatives, and frequently sit down and go through survey results with the agency to ensure high results, Kirchner said.
“What we do colors the experience with the healthcare provider,” Gonsalves said. “How we participate in that process is critical.”
But, at a time when healthcare companies are consolidating and are looking for providers to go beyond traditional third-party collections, having an early-out, self-pay operation is becoming more and more essential to the long-term growth for collection agencies.
“The more you can distinguish yourself, the more tentacles we can have embedded in our clients, the better,” said Kirchner. “Hospitals need help taking inbound calls. It’s a great space to be in. It opens a lot of doors. Larger physician groups are looking for this type of partnership.”