What Adds up to Form a Practice’s Accounts Receivable?

Accounts receivable is a critical component of a practice’s financial health. It represents the amount of money owed by patients or insurance companies for services rendered. Understanding what adds up to form a practice’s accounts receivable is essential for effective financial management. Here are some key factors that contribute to the formation of accounts receivable:

1. Patient Payments: When patients receive services, they are typically responsible for paying a portion of the fees. This includes co-pays, deductibles, and any out-of-pocket expenses. These payments are often collected at the time of service or billed to the patient afterward.

2. Insurance Payments: After services are provided, insurance companies are billed for their portion of the fees. This can include payments from both primary and secondary insurance providers.

3. Claims Denials: Sometimes, insurance companies may deny claims for various reasons, such as incomplete documentation or lack of medical necessity. These denied claims can contribute to the accounts receivable balance until they are resolved or appealed.

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4. Aging Receivables: As time passes, outstanding balances become older, resulting in aging receivables. The longer an account remains unpaid, the more difficult it becomes to collect.

5. Unapplied Payments: Occasionally, payments received from patients or insurance companies may not be immediately applied to specific accounts, resulting in unapplied payments. These amounts are recorded as accounts receivable until they are correctly allocated.

6. Bad Debt: When patients are unable or unwilling to pay their outstanding balances, it becomes bad debt. These accounts are often written off as uncollectible, which negatively impacts the practice’s financial performance.

7. Patient Financing: Some practices offer patient financing options, allowing patients to pay for services over an extended period. While this allows patients to receive necessary care, it also contributes to the accounts receivable balance.


1. What is the significance of monitoring accounts receivable?
Monitoring accounts receivable helps practices evaluate their financial performance, identify potential issues, and implement strategies to improve collection rates.

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2. How can practices reduce their accounts receivable balance?
Practices can reduce accounts receivable by implementing efficient billing processes, verifying insurance coverage, offering payment plans, and promptly following up on unpaid claims.

3. How long should practices wait before pursuing collections?
Practices should have a clearly defined collection policy that outlines the timeframes for pursuing unpaid balances. It is generally recommended to start collections after 90-120 days.

4. How can denied claims be resolved?
To resolve denied claims, practices should review the denial reason, gather necessary documentation, and resubmit the claim with additional information or appeal the decision if necessary.

5. What are the consequences of ignoring aging receivables?
Ignoring aging receivables can lead to increased bad debt expenses, reduced cash flow, and potential financial instability for the practice.

6. Are there any legal considerations when pursuing collections?
Practices must comply with federal and state laws governing debt collection practices, including the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) guidelines.

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7. How can technology help in managing accounts receivable?
Practice management software and electronic health record systems can automate billing processes, track outstanding balances, send reminders, and generate reports, improving efficiency and accuracy in managing accounts receivable.