In this industry, the length of the sales cycle is often measured in years, not days, weeks or even months. Before your new resident sets foot in your senior living community, you’ve already invested considerable time and money nurturing the relationship, building trust and—if you’re lucky—securing a deposit on a residence. Considering what’s at stake, you might be surprised to learn just how many communities sell themselves short, leaving thousands of dollars in services uncollected from residents.
All too often, the culprit is an inefficient, slow, error-prone billing process that relies on a patchwork of spreadsheets, emails and hastily scribbled notes that don’t make it to the billing department in time, or perhaps at all. In this post, we’ll offer tips for how to improve your billing process today, and we’ll explore the pros and cons of using centralized billing versus decentralized billing.
Using a Centralized Billing Process
In a centralized billing system, all resident care and ancillary service charges from around the community flow into a single corporate office where the data is then manually entered into the billing software by a staff member. When it works, it’s a simple, orderly system that has the potential to ensure consistent, accurate billing each month.
The effectiveness of centralized billing requires a constant, timely flow of data from various departments and ancillary service providers. In other words, it’s only as good as the information coming in. In a perfect world, your staff would dutifully report changes to care and the corporate billing office would close each month without missing revenue.
In reality, people get sidetracked, they become busy, they lose track of their notes, or they just plain forget to document the exact date the change occurred. We also need to consider the real possibility of human error during the data entry process at corporate. Either way, the end result is the same. Your senior living community is providing services without receiving proper compensation.
Quick Tips for Improving Centralized Billing
- Standardize the reporting process: Don’t make your billing department sort through emails, spreadsheets and sticky notes to find the information they need. Instead, create a standardized process for employees to relay changes to care in the corporate office.
- Make someone accountable in every department or location: While accurate billing should be a priority for everyone, sometimes it helps to assign responsibility to one individual (or group of individuals).
Using a Decentralized Billing Process
In a decentralized billing system, changes to resident care and ancillary service charges can be captured and recorded from anywhere in your community within moments of occurring. For example, let’s say you’re conducting a regular assessment of a resident and you determine that this individual could benefit from a higher level of care. In states that allow changes to care without consent from family members, a decentralized billing system would allow you to charge for these extra services immediately, without the need to send a report back to the corporate office.
When it’s used effectively, decentralized billing can help senior living communities reclaim revenue that might have otherwise gotten lost along the journey from care setting to corporate billing office. Like centralized billing, however, it also relies on a certain level of commitment from your team. At the end of the day, someone still needs to update a resident’s file when billing changes occur. If it’s not done in a timely fashion, your community risks closing out the month with revenue still on the table.
Quick Tips for Improving Decentralized Billing
- Set clear expectations for updating changes: Sometimes having too much freedom causes employees to procrastinate. Define a community-wide standard for how quickly or how often changes and ancillary service charges are to be updated.
- Empower employees to be good stewards: Commonly a community manager will take responsibility for entering changes, but there’s no reason others can’t pitch in. The beauty of decentralized billing is that the people who know your residents best can easily update the system as soon as a change occurs.
Using an EHR for Senior Living to Drive Revenue
Whether your senior living community uses a centralized or decentralized billing system, a great senior living EHR solution can improve billing accuracy and efficiency by reducing manual data entry errors and automating billing based upon move-ins, transfers and changes of care. The senior living billing software included with the MatrixCare Financial and Operations Management package also makes it easy to load ancillary charges—all at once as a batch, or one at a time as you receive them from vendors.