Many consultants are looking at alternative ways of increasing the size of their private practice by providing work for embassies. Here Caroline Byford of medical billing and debt collection company Medical Management Services, gives advice on how to avoid the payment pitfalls:

Consultants, specifically in the London region, are taking more work from international patients via embassies. It certainly makes sense to diversify your private practice and consider other sources of revenue beyond traditional private medical insurance. However, without the right experience and knowledge of embassies it can be notoriously troublesome to get paid on time – or at all.

Complex patients; longer consultations

Often, embassy patients will have complex conditions or require complex treatment – which may have been a reason to travel to the UK for healthcare. Before agreeing to see the patient and setting payment terms, it is important to bear in mind that you will need more consultation time in order to assess the patient fully.

Patients from overseas may also need other additional items to ensure they get the best care possible – like being accompanied by an interpreter – which may add to the time you need to spend with the patient.

Letters of Guarantee…always

Any treatment provided may be complicated and correlate to several codes, or not be adequately described by codes at all. To avoid any misunderstanding and delays or disputes for payment, be sure to clearly articulate your fees ahead of time to the embassy and get a Letter of Guarantee (LOG). These vary but typically detail patient demographic information, appointment information, reason for treatment and often consultant and hospital information.

Understand the process

Embassy accounts departments are very busy. They can receive hundreds of invoices a day and quite often have a backlog. Because of this, they have strict process and regulations – it is crucial you keep to these to avoid any payment disputes and resulting cash flow problems.

Face to face, personal relationships

Although not always possible, the hand delivery of invoices to embassy staff ensures all documentation reaches its destination and gives better clarity as to when the invoices are set to be processed.

Personal extended relationships with key teams at each of the embassies is hugely beneficial. Building up these relationships takes time, experience and effort but – where possible – visiting staff, working with them and ensuring they have what they need to do their jobs effectively results in prompt and stress-free payment.

Some embassies are now clamping down on external visitors so do your research or work with medical billing experts who may have their own relationships established over several years.
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