Busting the annual fee myth

If your medical practice has shied away from annual fees for uninsured services, you might want to reconsider.

Family and specialty physicians can charge patient fees for administrative services that provincial health insurance does not cover. 

Some practices offer their patients the option to pay an annual fee for their uninsured services as an alternative to á la carte charges. Sometimes called a block fee, it covers a predetermined set of uninsured services during a one-year period.

Not all practices charge annual fees. A 2020 study in CMAJ Open found that only about one out of five family physicians in Ontario offers an annual fee option.

However, there can be numerous advantages for both patients and providers. Furthermore, Doctors Services takes the hassle out of setting up and managing an annual fee program.

This post will bust the top three myths that keep practices from implementing annual fee programs. These are:

  • None of my patients will pay it;
  • Patients will inundate my practice with questions; and
  • It’s too time-consuming to administer.

Myth No. 1: None of my patients will pay it

If this was true, Doctors Services wouldn’t be in business!

When surveyed, patients tell Doctors Services that there are two primary reasons why they pay an annual fee instead of fee-for-service for uninsured administrative services.

  1. It’s convenient. For many patients, it’s easier to pay one annual fee instead of dealing with the hassle of multiple invoices. This is particularly true for patients who know that they will utilize a number of non-covered administrative services over the course of the fee period.
  2. Patients respect their doctor’s time. Doctors Services regularly hears patients say they sign up for their physician’s annual fee out of respect for their doctor’s work. Some patients understand that administrative services take up valuable staff time and resources.

Myth No. 2: Patients will inundate my practice with questions

If this was true, medical practices would have given up on annual fees a long time ago!

Yes, it is true that, if your practice is offering an annual fee for the first time, you will naturally receive some calls from patients wanting more information.

In Doctors Services’ experience, however, it has never been a torrent of inquiries. Most importantly, the annual fee letter that Doctors Services sends to patients on your behalf includes our phone number. As a result, the majority of calls actually come to us. 

Doctors Services has the staff and the expertise to spend as much time as needed with your patients to explain and answer questions about the annual fee. Your staff can stay focused on what they do best: providing medical care.

Furthermore, after the first year of implementation, your patients understand the fee and the number of calls naturally decreases.  For every subsequent year after, the number of calls continues to diminish.

Myth No. 3: It’s too time-consuming to administer

If this was true, Doctors Services isn’t doing our job!

Doctors Services takes care of 95% of all of the administration of your annual fee program. We do the hard work so that you don’t have to. Benefits of our service include:

  • Regular reports to your practice of annual fees paid.
  • Real-time access to our online tools.
  • The ability to create invoices for patients that incur a fee for an uninsured administrative service but haven’t paid your annual fee.

Ready to consider implementing an annual fee? Request a free audit and let Doctors Services show you how we can build you a comprehensive annual fee program.

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