I just talked to an acupuncturist who went on Saturday to make a house call, took him over a half an hour to get to the patient’s place, once in the elevator of the building, he gets a call – the patient was canceling the appointment! The practitioner wanted to know if he could bill the patient for his time and just how much could he bill for. You know what I told him?
“Don’t bill the patient.” Now obviously he doesn’t need my blessing to bill this patient, and in fact he can send a bill for any amount he wants, however it is my opinion is he shouldn’t bill the patient and I’ll tell you why. This patient canceled his appointment less than 5 minutes before it was about to begin – Do you really think he’s going to pay this bill? What the acupuncturist should do is determine WHY the patient did this in the first place. The reason he did this was there were NO expectations set about the visit. There needs to be CLEAR communication right from the beginning about what you will do and won’t do as well as your office policies regarding payment. This is just as necessary (perhaps even more) when the patient is being seen OUTSIDE the office as when he comes in for a treatment . Here is how this situations should have been handled:
At the time the appointment was scheduled, the patient should have been faxed or sent a copy of the financial policies. Your policies should spell out in writing that missed appointments without 24 hr notice will be charged at the going rate. Since services are to be paid at the time of treatment the patient should also give his credit card information as well since there will be no opportunity to run the card at his home. These policies immediately stop any patient from canceling without notice. NOW what if the patient won’t sign or volunteer his credit card info? Well you have to ask yourself- why? It certainly is a reasonable EXPECTATION to expect to be paid for your time, right? If the patient doesn’t see it this way, do you really want him as a patient?
Occasionally emergencies do arise. You use your discretion to charge the patient (or not) depending on the situation- however YOU are now in control.
When you are clear about your expectations your time will be valued and not wasted.