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5 Practices to Improve Patient Payments

Ennie Newton
5 Practices to Improve Patient Payments

Healthcare service calls for a high degree of compassion and selflessness. But ultimately, a hospital or a doctor’s office is a business too. It has to generate enough revenues to pay the staff, maintain the infrastructure and grow. But thanks to the complexities inherent in the US healthcare system, maintaining a smooth flow of revenues is a challenge for many healthcare practices.

In recent years there has been an added twist to the problems that healthcare providers face. The reimbursement model for healthcare services has seen a shift towards more patient responsibility. Patient copays now make up 20 % of a practice’s revenue. This shift poses a big challenge for healthcare providers because collecting from patients is more difficult than collecting from insurance companies. That is perhaps why only 60 % of patient copays make it to the practitioner’s accounts. These losses when accumulated make a big dent in the provider’s revenue. According to the American Hospital Association, since 2000, hospitals have provided unpaid services worth more than $ 500 billion. A number that looks startling from an industry frame of reference.

So the need of the hour for healthcare practitioners and hospitals is to come up with a solid strategy or plan to change this dismal record. If you are a healthcare service provider with the need to improve your patient collections, here are 5 practices that must be part of your patient payment collection plan.

1. Prime your staff for pre-appointment action

The action starts much before the patient enters your doors. It starts right when he or she calls to make an appointment. Prime your staff to collect full information about the patients and their insurance coverage when they call. Including these details as mandatory fields in your appointment scheduling software will make sure that crucial information is not missed out. An online appointment tool with the same fields can make it easy for patients booking appointments through your website portal. Alternatively, patients can also be given the option of mailing or emailing filled up forms to you.

This information can give you an insight into the patient’s paying ability right at the outset. You can then customize the collection plan for the patient and communicate it clearly to him or her. Your staff can also use this information to verify coverage and follow up with the patient through every stage of the payment collection process

2. Collect payment when a patient checks-in

It is common knowledge that once the patient leaves your premises after the service then the likelihood of receiving prompt payments reduces. Many medical organizations claim that they are more successful at collections when they collect the payment before the service begins. Though this is evidently the most practical solution, hospital staff find it difficult to implement it.

Patients come to the hospital under stressed conditions and confronting them with payment conditions during check-in seems inconsiderate and so most hospital staff avoid it. But giving patients a clear understanding of their medical responsibility beforehand is beneficial both for the patient as well as the hospital in the long term. So train your staff to communicate your collection policy in a way that reflects compassion and care.  You can facilitate this by providing them with well-prepared scripts and also incentivizing their collection efforts.             

3. Allow the convenience of multiple payment methods

McKinsey’s annual Consumer Health Insights (CHI) tells us that 20 % of consumers tend to pay the same household bill using a different payment method every month. What is convenient to them at one time may not remain so the next time. This applies to all services and more so with healthcare services because medical needs are urgent and often unanticipated. Giving greater flexibility to patients in choosing their payment channel can result in more prompt payments. Automated payments through debit cards or credit cards not only mean convenience for the patients but assured timely payments for hospitals.

4. Break the bills down to workable payment plans

Healthcare costs in the US are higher than in most other countries. Nearly half (41%) of working-age persons in the US have problems with paying their medical bills. There are many reasons for rising healthcare costs and there is not much that individual players in the healthcare industry can do to tackle this collective problem. But at the same time, healthcare providers cannot be insensitive to the concerns of their patients. So what can you do?

Analyze the patient’s payment ability and provide him or her with a payment plan that is spread over a reasonable length of time. This will encourage the patients to fulfill their responsibility. It will also assure them that you as a healthcare provider care about their well-being. Then communicate the plan to the patient clearly. The patient can be asked to sign an agreement that records the plan and the recourse when the patient doesn’t adhere to the terms of the plan.

5. Improve Communication with patients

When you want to sustain and grow your healthcare practice, you must be mindful of patients’ opinions on your service. Communication plays an important role in creating a positive opinion. If you communicate treatment options and medical responsibilities clearly and openly, patients are more likely to trust you.

A recent survey reports that patients wish to be in touch with their healthcare providers over more convenient channels like email, texts, and online chats. However, not even 50 % of healthcare providers use these channels to communicate with their patients. Communication over the telephone can become inefficient because of noise or long holding times. Opening other lines of communication can make it easy for your patients to put their queries across. Satisfied patients who feel their healthcare provider listens to them are more likely to make timely payments.

While following these practices can improve patient payments, entrusting your entire billing process to skilled professionals with sufficient expertise can reduce operational costs and push revenues up. Rannsolve is a trusted world-class healthcare Revenue Cycle Management service provider that offers end to end, client-centric solutions in all areas of the revenue cycle from patient scheduling to quality audits. Get in touch with us today for a quote.

Ennie Newton
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