Editor’s Note: Ontario Systems, as part of its “Play to Win” Leadership Conference held earlier this week in Indianapolis, brought together three members from the accounts receivable management industry to share best practices with healthcare providers on how to select, evaluate, and manage collection agency partners. Yesterday, today, and tomorrow, insidePatientFinance is presenting a story on each of these steps. Today in Part 2, Jim Christensen, CEO of Array Services Group, explains how to select a collection agency partner and offers two tips on how to establish what you expect from them.

Imagine you are sitting at your desk with a stack of responses to your RFP seeking a collection agency partner. How do you evaluate them and pick the best candidate?

Christensen, with some 40 years of experience in the accounts receivable management industry, offered several tips on how to determine which firm will best address your needs.

1. Visit the agency

Nothing is better than your own eyes and ears to ascertain whether an agency will be able to live up to the reputation it has presented in it’s response to your RFP. “Do not listen to what the sales people have told you, because that’s not really what’s going to happen,” says Christensen.

After sorting through the RFPs and picking the best candidates, conduct a site visit and “meet the people who are going to be on that project,” he says. These are the individuals who will represent you, and you need to make certain they have the skill set and approach that best serves your patients and your needs.

2. Check references — all of them

This seems to be a no-brainer, but Christensen recommends adding a twist to the standard calls to your potential partner’s references. “Talk to people who have a relationship with this agency, but also talk to clients who had a relationship but no longer do,” he says. Every agency has former clients, and speaking to a sample of those providers will give you insight into what your potential collection agency partner does well and doesn’t do well.

3. One size does not fit all

At Christensen’s firm, the staff that handles the healthcare part of the business have a different profile from those who work for clients in other industries. For example, his specialists who work on client’s patients who are self-pay are more akin to customer service representatives than those who work on accounts for bank and credit card companies. “In our world … you have time to spend with the patient,” Christensen says.

There are benefits to such a relationship, as it gives the collection professional the opportunity to root out additional payer sources for the patient that were overlooked by the healthcare provider. Unlike someone in patient access who has only a few minutes with a patient, the healthcare collections professional sometimes has weekly, daily or even hourly contact with patient.
Christensen warns that if a potential collection agency partner has the same individuals handling accounts for all different industries, “run like your hair’s on fire.”

Once you select an agency, it is important to set expectations at the beginning. Christensen offered numerous tips on how to get the relationship with the agency off on the right foot. Here are two more:

4. Don’t worry about being over-cautious about collection scripts and patient contact approach

Christensen advises that at the outset you establish with your new agency exactly how you want your patients approached and treated. Carefully review call scripts, and then review recordings of actual calls to make sure even the tone of voice reflects what you want. And don’t overlook the logistics behind the call. Do you want the firm to use a dialer? Are there certain hours of the day that you don’t wish calls to be made.

5. Make certain the agency is compliant

“Compliance is probably the biggest concern that you have,” says Christensen, and you need to be clear with your collection agency partner what your expectations are. Do they have a compliance officer or officers? Are they not only knowledgeable and compliant with federal laws and regulations, but also those of the states in which they practice? Do the perform daily call monitoring to check for compliance? And are they members of credentialed organizations such as the Association of Credit and Collection Professionals (ACA) and are they certified?

If you find your potential agency lacking, make it clear that you expect them to be compliant. And don’t take their word for it. Perform your own due diligence.


For more on this topic check out:

Part 1: 7 Questions Healthcare Providers Should Ask in Their Next RFP For a Collection Agency Partner
Part 3: Communication the Secret to Successful Relationship with Collection Agency Partner