Ask Amy: Miffed by missed fees


What do you do about missed fees?

Our practice is performing record audits and calling clients regarding missed fees. I’m not comfortable asking clients to pay more a week or two after visits. I feel this alienates clients and makes us look incompetent. Any advice?



An occasional, timely call won't isolate clients or make you look inept. Every person and business makes mistakes and the vast majority of clients will understand. When you contact pet owners, include a sincere apology for the mistake: "Mrs. Lewis, when you visited us last week with Precious we inadvertently failed to charge you for the fecal exam we performed. I'm so sorry for the confusion on our end and we're taking steps to make sure it won't happen again. Would you like us to bill you for the fecal or put it on your credit card?" (5 ways to recover from a mistake)

There are two caveats to this advice—the words occasional and timely. A client will forgive one mistake, but if you call repeatedly about missed fees, you will look like you don't know what you're doing. And you won't win any friends by contacting clients more than a few weeks after the charges were missed. Of course, there will be clients who you know will react badly, even to one, timely call. Hopefully your practice has already decided not to phone these particular pet owners.

If your practice misses a number of fees and regularly calls clients, then you're facing an underlying problem that must be fixed. It's great you're performing medical record audits, but keep in mind that the purpose of doing so is twofold. You want to recapture missed charges and identify why the charges are being overlooked so you can plug the leak.

As you audit, look for a pattern in your missed charges. Do they all happen with the same doctor or receptionist? Do they all happen on Tuesdays when you're short staffed? Or do they primarily happen with hospitalized cases? Once you know this information, you can either deal with the individual who's responsible or improve the systems that are letting these charges slip through. —AMY

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