Ask Dianne: No Financial or Appointment Policies = Missed Revenue

ask-expert31Sample Policy:
Appointment and Financial Policies – Psychotherapy Practice   

You can download copies of the sample policy for your own use:

PDF    Word Document

The Scenario:
This sample policy comes from a psychotherapy practice where there had previously been no written financial policies in place. Patients were doing a number of things that were detrimental to the financial health of the practice:

  • Coming late for appointments
  • Not showing for appointments without calling ahead
  • Calling to say they were not coming – and making that call at the exact time they should have been there for the appointment
  • Not paying their co-pay for services (most didn’t know the amount to pay and left it to the office to find out)
  • Changing insurances without notifying the office

Missed appointments left huge holes in the schedule – blocks of time that were not generating revenues. Uncollected revenues in the form of unpaid co-pays were impacting the profits of the practice. The time spent fretting about it was time that could have been used to develop promotional campaigns for marketing the practice.

These non-payers were not bad people. They simply had never been told of their financial obligations in a way that had meaning.  The psychotherapist did mention it during the intial telephone consultation, but felt that mixing a financial discussion with a treatment session was not a good idea. The actions the therapist and her front office staff were taking were not effective.

The hesitency of the therapist to deal directly with the problem was delaying a solution and creating a cash flow problem.

This policy was developed to address the problems the practice had experienced. It is meant to put the responsibility where it belongs, while still maintaining the warmth and caring that the psychotherapist wanted to portray with her patients.

Each patient, current and new, was given a copy of the policy to review and sign when they came for their next appointment, prior to seeing the therapist.

The first day the policy was put into place, one client whipped out her checkbook and paid half her account, with a promise to pay the other half at the next visit (which she did). She said she hadn’t known (though she had wondered) – no-one had ever asked her for any money. Every patient willingly paid their co-pay. Overall acceptance of the policy has been good. In fact, no-one has complained. There has also been a marked reduction in the other problems (no shows, tardiness, etc.).

The therapist is happier now that the problem has been effectively dealt with, and cash flow has improved.

As you read the policy, look for ideas you can adapt for your own policy. Don’t expect to simply use the policy “as is”. Your practice has unique issues and its own style.  While this was designed for a psychotherapy practice, with a little adjusting, it can be used with other professions as well. 

Let this sample policy serve as a model for developing policies for your office that will resolve or avoid the financial issues of most concern to you.

Sample policy:
          Appointment and Financial Policies – Psychotherapy Practice
           PDF    Word Document   (you can edit the Word version)

Readers, anything you would add? Leave your comments below.