By Bob RichardsonRichardson1

The credit crunch is not showing any signs of slowing down, and with approval rates from third-party financing vendors plummeting, many plastic surgeons are finding it increasingly difficult to get paid in full.

No one is in business for free, so how can you maximize the chances that you will get paid without the help of a collection agency and still perform the surgeries and procedures you love most?

Start by following these five expert-approved tips for choosing your patients and developing flexible financing plans that set the stage for success.

Tip 1: Do Some Due Diligence

Verify a prospective patient’s ability to pay. If they can’t pay on their own and don’t qualify for third-party financing, request a year-to-date pay stub, secure references, and/or require a co-signer.

Tip 2: Negotiate a Reasonable Payment Plan

Talk openly with your patients about their finances. If a person says, “I can’t afford to pay for the whole procedure up front,” discuss a payment plan that they can afford. While all of this may be uncomfortable, it’s better to deal with any problems before they occur then to have to call in a collection agency on the back end.

Tip 3: Keep in Close Touch

Send proactive notifications to patients before payments are due and immediately following any missed payments. E-mail or text messages work best.

When a payment is missed, contact the responsible party and let them know you will try to collect again in approximately 1 week. Don’t wait 30 or 60 days. The further out you get from payday, the less likely you are to collect.

Also, keep a record of all conversations with the patient, whether electronic or on the phone. This will allow different staff members to be on the same page. It also creates an audit trail if you need to turn the patient’s account over to collections.

Tip 4: Be Flexible

To help patients stay current with their payment plan, allow for occasional flexibility.

Take proactive steps to set patients up for success, such as using automatic debit from their bank accounts and scheduling their payments around paydays and rent schedules.

Tip 5: Consider Charging Interest

Though the idea makes some doctors uneasy, charging interest on payment plans can help mitigate repayment risk.

Following these five steps can help avoid the need for a collection agency. While sometimes effective, these agencies are costly and typically charge a large percent of the base fee.

Collection agencies should be a last resort for securing patient payments.

Richardson-bio Any pressing collection questions? Let Bob Richardson, president of, know. He can be reached via [email protected].