The primary reason that most practitioners decide to set up in private practice is to help more people. This is definitely an important part of running a practice, both for the long-term sustainability of the practice as well as for the ability to contribute to your community and your sense of purpose. But it needs to be held in balance with the other important pillars of a successful practice. If you continue to put the wellbeing of your clients above all else, you’ll find yourself stressed, burnt out, and struggling to keep your practice afloat. In fact, in a study conducted on physicians, financial stress was the leading cause of depression, and a study on dentists in private practice found that financial issues were in the top two most common stressors.
Conversely, if you have a good handle on where you are financially, you can improve the profitability of the practice which will reduce your stress levels considerably and give you space to work on the business, instead of in it.
So, how do you go about streamlining billing in your practice?
There are five steps that will help you tackle the overwhelming task of bringing order to the finances of your practice, and it all starts with your mindset.
Step 1 – Cultivate the Right Mindset
Billing is not something to shy away from. You can’t bury your head in the sand and hope that it takes care of itself. Rather it needs to be a priority, along with positive client outcomes, to ensure that you’re building a thriving practice.
At the heart of Power Diary is the overarching vision to provide a service that empowers health practices. And this vision is underpinned by six important principles:
- Strong finances;
- Positive client outcomes;
- Robust processes;
- Work/life balance;
- Minimal admin.
With thousands of practitioners using and loving Power Diary, and more than 12 years in the industry, we’ve learnt a lot about empowered health practices, and it starts with strong finances. Often practitioners shy away from topics like remuneration, but you have studied for years in order to provide your services, and you need to become comfortable with being remunerated accordingly. If you can get that right, you’ll be ready to face your finances head-on, know where you are financially, remove barriers so you can get paid easily by clients, and spend less time on admin.
This step is essential for streamlining billing in your practice. If you don’t shift your mindset to make the finances of your practice a priority, you won’t be successful in reducing billing inefficiencies.
Step 2 – Choose the Right Software
Times have changed. Excel and other manual systems are no longer the right options for invoicing your clients. Why not you ask? The full answer is a long one, but it can be covered in one word: inefficiency. The time that it takes to generate and follow-up on invoices if you’re not using robust billing software adds up quickly, and there’s a good chance that things are going to slip through the cracks.
The obvious alternative is practice management software with a billing module that has been custom built with practice owners in mind. With Power Diary, for example, invoicing is completely integrated into the software, which means that invoices can be generated automatically with the client details, information about the service provided, price, timing, and more.
To streamline your billing, you need to be able to customise your invoices and collect payments seamlessly.
You can customise invoicing and statements with options such as:
- Assigning the appropriate payer – this may be the client or a third party such as an insurance provider, parent, or employer.
- Listing single or multiple products and services on one invoice.
- Including insurance details for full compliance – invoices can be set to auto-populate details like clinician information, payment options, referral information, and more.
- Recording full or partial payments – keep your paperwork up-to-date with flexible payment recording options, including the ability to apply bulk payments to multiple invoices from a client or third party payer.
- Customising your invoices – invoices are brandable and can include custom invoice text.
- Sending follow-ups – client statements can be compiled at the click of a button and sent to the client or third party payer.
- Managing outstandings – receivable reports let you know immediately who owes what and when the payment was due.
- Setting calendar alerts – highlight any clients with amounts due, helping to keep payment collection top of mind.
- Adding custom pop-up alerts when a client with outstandings schedules a new appointment.
- Emailing clients with outstandings to remind them to settle.
You can collect payments quickly and easily with a flexible system that allows you to:
- Take payment when the client books online or allow them to settle when they attend the session.
- Record multiple payment methods including cash, credit card, EFT, voucher, HICAPS, and more.
- Use your own credit card processing facilities or an online Stripe integration that allows you to process credit card payments online without a physical terminal.
You can connect to other financial systems, including:
- Xero – a full-service cloud-based accounting system helps you export your clients, invoices and payments to Xero.
- Medicare and DVA – submit bulk billed or patient claims directly through Power Diary.
You can maintain full visibility of your finances at a click of a button with reporting including:
- Accounts receivable;
- Aged receivables;
- Invoices created;
- Payments processed.
Step 3 – Develop In-Depth Processes and Procedures
Process Street, a pioneering workflow software, shares compelling reasons for creating processes and procedures in all areas of your business. What often happens in private practices is that the billing system is built around (and is reliant on) individuals within the practice. This becomes a barrier in a myriad of different ways because if the person is on leave or resigns, it can have a big impact on the practice.
Instead, as a practice owner, you need to think about the best way to build robust billing processes, then document them. Focus on automating as much of the process as possible (such as auto-populating invoices and allowing clients to retrieve their invoices from your portal), and document each of the procedures step-by-step so that they can be followed by anyone on the team. Power Diary recently launched Practice Operations Manual which includes pre-written policy and procedure templates that you can quickly and easily adapt for your practice.
Keep in mind that the billing process is not a single task and may need to be broken down into different procedures to cover each of the flows. It may also be worth scheduling a walk-through with your billing software provider (such as Power Diary) to find out what the system can offer, how other practice owners are using the system, and what functionalities and features will add efficiency to billing in your practice.
Power Diary has several features built into the billing module that are designed to streamline the billing flow, making it easier for practice owners to rely on a centralised system instead of an individual within the practice. These features include:
- Pre-populated invoices;
- Referral tracking and session count-downs with alerts;
- Reporting, so you can see how everything is performing;
- Client retention metrics;
- Alerts for clients with an outstanding account.
Step 4 – Make it Easy for Clients to Pay
This is a crucial element that many practices overlook. Whether you offer Medicare bulk billing, send out invoices over email, or take credit card payments at the time of appointment, it needs to be convenient for the client.
Consider your options for taking payment. You could offer credit card processing in your client portal so that clients can review their invoices and settle them immediately. This works well for practices that have a cancellation policy as they can send an invoice to a client who has missed an appointment.
Work out what is the most efficient way for you to take payment, and see whether it matches what is convenient for the client. You may have to find some middle ground because what matters most is that the money comes in as quickly as possible, both for cash flow purposes as well as ensuring that you receive payment while the appointment is still fresh in the client’s mind.
Step 5 – Regularly Update Client Data
One of the core principles of Power Diary is to minimise admin for healthcare practices, and the software continues to be developed with this in mind because empowered practices minimise and automate admin.
How this looks for billing processes is automatic invoices, integrated Medicare and DVA, Stripe, and Xero, as well as Tyro and upcoming HICAPS integrations. But the software takes it one step further with the ability to create online forms that can be sent to the customer. While they can be used for anything, one of the most popular uses is to create an online form that a client completes which can be used to auto-update their details in your practice’s database. Another option is to include a client data check either once a year, every few months, or whenever a client comes in to ensure nothing has changed since their last visit.
An essential element of billing is to have up-to-date client records, including their contact details such as a telephone number and an email address. Knowing that your client information is up-to-date means that you can track email and SMS deliverability and ensure that the right person receives the invoice and is able to pay immediately. The quicker accounts are settled, the less time your admin team or finance person needs to spend trying to track down payments.
There’s a lot more to a successful practice than seeing clients. And moving into private practice doesn’t necessarily mean less admin, contrary to what you might have thought! Regulations continue to change and, over time, have become more complex, making it difficult to remain compliant.
Once you have compliance nailed down, there are the complexities of growing a practice to consider, such as adding team members and different billing requirements depending on who is paying the account and what payment method is used.
Taking all the issues into account, it becomes essential to streamline billing in order to maintain the financial health of the practice and cut down on the time and effort that it takes to create and send invoices, receive payment, and follow up with outstandings.
Our five-step process, based on conversations with thousands of practice owners over the years, looks at the different areas you need to focus on to ensure that your billing processes are as efficient as possible, freeing up your team to focus on value-adding activities and empowering your practice to thrive.