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The one decision you shouldn't make for clients

One of the challenges I frequently hear from allied health practitioners is the ability to feel comfortable on the topic of client fees. Therapists (often those that are sole practitioners, or staff working in outreach, or satellite clinics) sometimes feel awkward when there is no ‘barrier’ between them and the patient in terms of cash handling; and when they have treated a client, to then take money and ask them to book in again. Can you relate to this?

Here are my simple starting tips to develop an approach to service payments that suits you:

1. Be transparent

You need to ensure that your clients know the service prices and that there is a cost involved for therapy. Transparency is essential. It is also essential that you develop a comfortable approach to talk with clients about costs and money, both prior to and during their appointment. If you are in the middle of a therapy session for example, and identify that an additional service or product is required within or following that session, make sure you tell the client the additional cost of this. 

2. Don’t assume

This is a really important point.

It is important to never assume clients cannot afford therapy and therefore make financial decisions for them – instead, offer them the options and let them make decision. Think about a fair equity of care model for clients – all clients are entitled to be offered the same level of care, regardless of assumptions about finance (e.g. offer all clients same follow up weekly, rather than booking some in fortnightly because of assumption they can’t afford it). Have discussions with clients about finances and how they are coping with affording therapy, rather than just ceasing it for them – allow part payments or alternative therapy options (phone call check in, spacing appointments out, suggest Medicare funding if eligible). Explore this ONLY AFTER offering the client same therapy services (frequency etc.) as everyone else – the client has the right to choose what suits them best and what they can prioritise for their own family.

The process of suggesting to clients that they can ‘call if needed’ or ‘make an appointment when they feel they need to’ assumes the client has the training to make that decision – this is unfair for the client to be in that position. In this situation, rather than helping them, it could be perceived that you are really saying you don’t care. They should be offered the appointment and then they can choose what they would like to do. It is not for the therapist to decide what the client can or can’t afford – the duty of care as a therapist is to offer the highest level of appropriate servicing to achieve their goals and then, if necessary, compromise to accommodate their financial or time commitments that they identify.

In summary, we as therapists do not have a role in making assumptions about which client should get what treatment, all clients should be offered the same high quality and it’s up to the client to decide what they can and can’t afford.

3. Develop a policy

If you have a well established payment policy in your practice, this can provide a great framework in which to manage client payments and discussion around payment expectations. Your policy will be unique to your practice or service and outline the following (as a start):

  • Outline fees applicable for service
  • State when fees are to be paid
  • State if there is provision for financial hardship, and the criteria
  • Outline debt collection procedures (or make reference to your Debt Collection Policy)

By referring to your policy, you will feel more confident regarding conversations with your clients about money, and maintain consistency in your approach (if you are not sure how to write a policy, let us know – we have blank templates available).

I hope the above helps you feel more comfortable about the financial relationship between yourself and your clients.

Have a great week!

Read 270 times Last modified on Tuesday, 22 August 2017 10:34

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