Do you have former patients with outstanding debts who are difficult, and almost impossible, to find? You are not alone. In fact, data from athenahealth found that practices overall collect just 12 percent of outstanding balances at the time of service and collect nothing 67 percent of the time.

Much like a magician does for his or her finale, some patients will pull off a disappearing act when it’s time to pay a bill. Instead of feeling thrilled or impressed, you may feel frustrated, stressed and wondering if it’s even worth finding the person. You don’t want your employees spending all their time and resources trying to track down a patient, especially when the longer they are missing the less likely you are to collect payment.

Luckily, there’s skip tracing.

Skip tracing is the process of finding better contact information to locate a person’s whereabouts. Many debt collection agencies use skip tracing tools to help locate or update phone numbers, addresses, assets and places of employment.

What are the benefits?

Effective: As the debt ages and collection calls go unanswered, your chances of payment get lower and lower. Depending on the debt collection agency, skip tracing uses the latest technology and data compiled from more than 10,000 independent sources to find people who haven’t paid their invoices. This effective tool can help you find your missing patients much faster and will free up your employees so they can focus on what matters most—providing exceptional care.

Ethical: While finding a patient is important, certain practices could be an invasion of privacy. It’s important to consider a debt collection agency that frequently audits their procedures to make sure laws and ethical standards are being followed and their practices abide by the Federal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act. This is also important if the patient has moved to another state because different states have different laws about how a debt collection agency can contact a patient. A knowledgeable partner will be well-versed on the appropriate guidelines and laws, making skip tracing a valuable tool that gives you a better shot at recovering bad debt.

Affordable: Larger companies may have in-house collections but the internal costs of purchasing various databases and training your employees can add up quickly. Depending on your debt collection agency, a missing locator could be included in your standard collection service at NO expense and with NO up-front fee. Many collection agencies are also not paid unless they collect on a debt for you. Before you choose a partner, make sure you understand their fees and what’s included in your account.

There are a lot of skip tracing tools and debt collection partners to choose from. When you pair that with the continuing growth of late and missed payments, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed. Understanding how helpful this tool is will help you pick the right debt collection agency and recover bad debt faster.

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