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These Magic Words Could Get You Paid

Feb 22, 2017 05:30PM ● By MED Magazine
By Jill Heyden

Sometimes the best solutions are so elementary, we overlook the obvious. In a recent study performed by the accounting software, Freshbooks, this was indeed the case. It was not only what was stated on invoices, but how it was stated that prompted payments.   According to the study, a simple thank you at the end of an invoice increased both the percent of invoices paid as well as the speed at which payments were completed.

By adding the word ‘please’ to an invoice, this changed perception from a demand into a request. For example: instead of stating “Payment due within 21 days,” it was suggested to opt for a more polite phrase such as “Please pay within 21 days.” When invoice terms sound as if they were written like an individual letter, it becomes more personalized.  A more personalized approach has also been shown to generate more payment activity.

Payment terms and expectations should be clearly articulated to the patient on each statement.  Keep in mind that not every person who receives an invoice has the same education level. Any form of documentation that a patient receives should be written in a way that can be understood by all who read it. If an invoice or statement is too complicated, the patient will likely throw it aside and it will go unpaid because it is misunderstood. Taking the time to make a call to solicit assistance or explanation is often not a high priority.

Set a payment date that is easy to mark on a calendar and gives the customers enough time to pay, but not so much time that they forget. Requesting payment on a specified calendar date when the payment is due could be effective since it will give patients a date for their calendar, however, it could also prevent them from paying earlier than that date.  Though opinions on this ‘magic time frame’ range from 10 days to 30 days, the Freshbooks study identified that 21 days produced successes.

Offering a convenient way to make payments will be beneficial for both you and your patients. Electronic payment options are vastly growing in popularity because of their convenience, speed, and the consistent nature of arrangement. Many medical providers promote secure online bill pay options through their website. This drives traffic to the website to encourage information sharing as well as offers the convenience that many patients are interested in. 

Educating patients is imperative to timely payments. If patients do not have a clear understanding of procedures and policies, this may become an excuse or stall tactic used to delay or avoid payment. One of the most effective ways to succeed in patient education is to have a Patient Advocate or Financial Counselor available to explain medical procedures, as well as policies and financial responsibilities. This person also needs to clearly articulate the expectations of the provider. Expectations should be in a written format and also be provided to the patient in this consultation.

Providers may also want to explore the possibilities of implementing additional technological advances such as reminders for appointments or upcoming appointments via text or email. Though compliance is a major factor in the consideration of this technology, young adults respond well to this method of communication.

Team members who work in medical billing offices often have a firm grasp on patient behavior. Tap into their expertise, experience and opinions. Often being creative will prompt patients to make prompt payments. 

Jill Heyden is Director of Business Relations at Advanced Asset Alliance in Sioux Falls.