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RCM Tip #4: Collect Your Patient Co-Payments Up Front

RCM tip on purple background with dollar sign and yellow dots



How integrated dermatology practice management software and revenue cycle management services can help improve patient collections in your dermatology practice.

Your dermatology practice, like any other business, survives based on revenue. Regardless of a top-notch medical team, you can’t keep the lights on based on quality of care alone. For the longevity of your business, it’s vital to closely manage the financial performance of your dermatology practice. Each month I will offer a revenue cycle management tip to help you better manage the business operations of your practice and guide you towards financial success.

It’s no secret the healthcare landscape has changed dramatically in the past two decades, significantly impacting the medical insurance reimbursement process. One of the most prominent trends has been the shift of financial responsibility from insurance companies to patients through higher co-payments, higher deductibles and fewer covered procedures. As a result, dermatology practices are on the hook for collecting more of the money they are owed directly from their patients. Instead of interfacing with a handful of established insurance companies, you are now faced with billing and collecting from potentially hundreds of patients.

With patients paying more of their healthcare costs directly, your practice should focus on prompt payment collection and viable payment plans for services rendered. Not only does billing patients for co-payments and other charges delay revenue, but it can also lead to increased patient balances that require more effort and resources to collect. A best practice in dermatology revenue cycle management (RCM) and other specialty practices is to collect patient co-payments at the time of service, taking advantage of the patient visit to capture revenue immediately.

Incorporate Patient Payment in Practice Culture

It can seem insensitive to ask a patient for payment when they may be facing a health issue, but at the end of the day your dermatology practice is a business that must be profitable to remain open. Set the expectation with your staff to collect copays and deductibles up front, before the provider sees the patient.

Your staff should be courteous but clear when speaking with patients about their financial obligations. When patients call to set appointments, your staff should collect all necessary insurance information and inform patients that their copay or coinsurance is expected at the time of their appointment. When patients arrive at your office, during check-in, staff should politely and respectfully inform the patient of their copay or other balance, and ask for payment prior to being seen by the provider. Some employees may be better at asking for payment than others. Encourage best practice sharing and cross training amongst your staff to improve and standardize the overall patient experience at your practice.

To make payment policies even more transparent, you should inform patients via your website, signage in the office and on appointment reminder calls that copays and other charges are due the day of their appointment before they will be seen by a provider. You may even want to consider rescheduling patients, except those that are acutely ill or injured, who are unable to pay their copay or deductible at the time of their appointment.

If your patients struggle with the upfront financial obligations, you may consider creating a payment plan option to allow your patients to pay in installments. If you do allow payment plans, the patient will need to agree to the terms of the payment plan in writing, including what will happen if the patient fails to pay.

Improve Financial Clarity With a Dermatology Practice Management System

Implementing an easy-to-use dermatology practice management system can serve as an invaluable tool for your front office staff. A comprehensive practice management system should connect the front office and dermatology billing department to make collecting patient payments a breeze.

Modernizing Medicine’s Practice Management system provides insurance eligibility verification functionality to check a patient’s co-payment, deductible and responsibility for specific services and procedures. You can even perform an eligibility check a few days prior to the patient’s visit so you can communicate and collect payment for the patient’s responsibility well in advance of the appointment.

Don’t Just Take Our Word For It | Our Clients’ Perspectives

Dawn Fortner, practice manager at Southeastern Dermatology Consultants, shared their experience with Practice Management, including the ability to easily collect patient copays in the office.

Jessica Kappelman, MD, MPH of Kappelman Dermatology, explains “My front office staff loves Practice Management. The check-in and checkout processes are much easier than those of our previous system. You can see chart notes to answer any patient questions and make sure the patients are up to date on any outstanding balances before the visit. The system is so easy and simple to use, it almost does almost everything for you. My staff is very happy we made the switch.”

Improving your staff’s visibility into patients’ balances and financial responsibilities through an advanced dermatology practice management system further supports your efforts in timely collection of patient copays in the office at the point of care.

Incorporate Third-Party Revenue Cycle Management Services

Staying on top of patient copays, coinsurances and other balances can be overwhelming, especially for smaller practices with limited front office or dermatology billing staff. Practices that may not have the resources to dedicate to patient collections can opt for a third-party revenue cycle management service.

Modernizing Medicine’s Revenue Cycle Management (RCM) service is fully integrated with the practice management software to offer a seamless dermatology billing solution. In addition to insurance eligibility checks, the RCM team provides patient statements, places outbound automated patient payment calls and offers an inbound call line to handle patient balance questions and patient payment processing.

Some Client Feedback on RCM

Marie Miller, office manager at Danville Dermatology, shared, “Since using RCM, our patient collections have been the best they’ve ever been and our accounts receivables have decreased significantly. Modernizing Medicine manages the entire dermatology billing process, from the time the patient comes in until the time we are paid and we have 100 percent visibility in real time throughout that process. We can now focus on what we do best, providing quality patient care.”

Modernizing Medicine’s dedicated team of dermatology revenue cycle specialists are dedicated to helping you improve the financial and operational aspects of your dermatology practice.

Patrick DeAngelo

Patrick DeAngelo


Patrick DeAngelo is the Senior Vice President and General Manager of Business Services. He is responsible for revenue cycle operations and sales, as well as Modernizing Medicine professional services, including MIPS Advising.

Over the past 20 years, Patrick’s leadership experience in all aspects of revenue cycle, patient experience and practice workflow have driven both top and bottom line improvement to physicians, hospitals and health systems. Patrick’s focus on setting goals based on quality and results-driven metrics inspires teams to strive for continuous improvement while promoting a high-performing, enthusiastic corporate culture.