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    Three money policies to rethink at your medical practice

    Consider the functions of petty cash, daily bank deposits, credit card pre-authorization


    The process of handling cash and checks has been streamlined by modern banking methods. Using current technology brings efficiency, reduces some of the control risks related to cash and checks, and helps keep the patient responsibility portion of your accounts receivable in check. Consider these three functions in your practice:

    1. Petty Cash

    Cash on hand will be necessary, but a traditional approach to a petty cash fund is more cumbersome than necessary. The process of accounting for petty cash is fairly simple.

    Because of the near-universal acceptance of credit cards, we suggest our clients have cards issued to those who “run to the store” with any regularity. The cards should have a low limit and be kept securely at the office until needed.

    Credit card activity can be linked and downloaded to the payables software so as to streamline accounting tasks.

    2. Daily Bank Deposits

    If you are going to the bank daily to make deposits, you may want to consider a remote deposit system. This involves simple software and scanning equipment installed by your bank at your practice. Each day you create a deposit batch and scan the checks. The scanner reads the routing number, account number, and dollar amount, and looks for a signature on the check.

    An image is produced so that the person operating the system can make corrections. The batch total for the deposit is then transmitted to the bank account you select through the software. We suggest keeping the physical checks for several months, then shredding the originals since the software maintains an image of each item.

    3. Credit Card Pre-Authorization

    Because of the increased use of high-deductible insurance plans, your practice likely is dealing with a greater amount of charges falling to the patients’ responsibility. This means a greater collection effort falls to your staff. The approach that generates the best collection result is to collect from your patients at the time of service. But patients will “forget” their wallets or checkbooks, or your office may be uncertain of the amount the patient will owe.

    Accepting credit cards helps, but you might also consider taking the use of credit cards a step further by implementing a pre-authorization system that allows you to bill a patient’s credit card after the amount owed is determined. The authorization form should include the patient’s name, billing address, type of credit card, credit card number (and security code if needed) and expiration date. The form should also allow the patient to identify the types of charges that can be billed to his or her credit card, for example, the charge for a specific visit, or any charge outstanding as of the normal billing date each month.

    The form can also allow the patient to elect to be billed by paper statement via mail, but with the stipulation that if payment is not received by the due date then the credit card on file will be charged. A major benefit to using a form like this is that it provides a tangible process by which the patient agrees to a method of payment in advance.


    Robert C. Scroggins, JD, CPA, CHBC, is a management consultant and principal with ScrogginsGrear Inc., in Cincinnati, Ohio. Send your practice management questions to [email protected].


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