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. For the past two days, insidePatientFinance has presented a story on each of these steps. 

Today in Part 3, Terry Armstrong, president of State Collection Service, Inc., offers five tips that will help you manage and sustain a long and fruitful relationship with your collection agency partner.

Many healthcare providers spend a tremendous amount of time of resources just finding a collection agency partner. But once you sign that contract, how do you make sure that relationship will be as productive in reality as it appears on paper?

Your goal should be to build a partnership that lasts a long time, Armstrong says. Speaking for his agency, the goal is to be partners for life. And to be effective partners, you need to communicate and communicate effectively. Armstrong offers the following five tips:

1. Meet regularly, including face-to-face
Armstrong suggests that you meet with your agency weekly or biweekly, including quarterly meetings where you meet face-to-face.

Silence, alas, is not golden in the world of healthcare provider/collection agency partnerships. “If we don’t hear from a client, we’re probably in trouble,” Armstrong says. But by insisting on frequent and regular community, “You will solve the problem, you will put something in place to make sure it doesn’t happen again, and you will have a reason to be talking.”

And always, always, always leave any meeting with an agenda of items to be improved.

2. Visit your agency partner

You should perform at least one site visit a year, Armstrong says, and that doesn’t mean sitting in a conference room for the day. “Come in and meet the collectors,” he says. “From our standpoint the collectors love meeting the clients.

Also examine how the agency does its work, including monitoring calls. “Really make sure that we are doing everything that we said we were going to do.”

3. Be available when your agency calls

Accessibility issues manifest themselves as communication issues, and that can be a problem sometimes because an agency may need an answer to a question about a patient, and getting that answer may be the difference between whether a patient is satisfied or not. If you don’t give that to your agency, they can’t solve the problem for you.

4. Share competitive analyses among agencies

If you use more than one agency, share the results of all the scorecards with all of them. If one agency is providing service that is superior to the others, it is important to let the other agencies know that so that they know how to improve.

“We have a goal we have to be in first place 95 percent of the time,” says Armstrong.

5. Don’t forget to communicate internally

Your relationship with your agency affects your internal business processes and procedures. For example, before you sign a contract with a new agency, make sure to involve your IT department to obtain resources necessary for the interface of data and communications between you and your new partner.

Just last week he was speaking with a provider who said it took two years to be able to begin working with an agency partner because her IT department did not have the available resources designated to work on the integration project.

Only by communicating well can you have an effective and productive relationship with your collection agency partner. “The ultimate goal in all of this is that we have patient satisfaction,” says Armstrong. “If we do this right, you will.”


Related stories in this series on insidePatientFinance.com:

Two days ago: 7 Questions Healthcare Providers Should Ask in Their Next RFP For a Collection Agency Partner

Yesterday: Setting Expectations for Your Medical Collection Agency Partners: 5 Vital Tips