High deductible health plans with low monthly premiums are increasing the number of self-pay patients. Unfortunately, many medical practices struggle to collect full payment from their patients, and revenue declines as a result. The explanations for missing payments have a trend. Patients forget to pay or are confused about what they owe. Statements are late to arrive in the mail. A lack of financing options simply makes the bill unaffordable. Consumerism is now tied to healthcare and providers need to take action to accommodate the financial needs of their community. With investments in technology, financing options, and customer service, healthcare facilities can better serve their patients and secure more revenue.
1: Take Full Advantage of Available Technology
Investing in technology and pre-service initiatives benefit both the patients and the practice. In fact, there are many steps that medical offices can take to make payment easier before patients even arrive. Cost estimates and verifying insurance ahead of time tend to shorten collection cycles. There are even data analytic tools that can calculate a patient’s likelihood to pay. Collect as much patient information as possible before the patient arrives. This will generate cost savings by allowing higher patient volume and more efficient personnel workflows. Digitized financial systems also can consolidate bills for patients, so that fees associated with physician exams and lab work are all in one place. Furthermore, studies show that the majority of people prefer online portals for making payments and are especially likely to do so if their medical records are in the same place. Giving patients online access to their accounts means they can pay at a time and place that is most convenient for them.
2: Offer a Variety of Payment Options
Self-service payments are becoming more popular. Interactive voice response and online portals make paying medical bills considerably more convenient than in the past. In addition to options for making a payment over the phone or mailing a check, make sure self-service options are clearly advertised. When offering multiple payment options, it’s important to keep track of each patient’s preferred mode of contact and to respond to each individual as quickly as possible. Agents should be available immediately. Web portals should be available 24/7. IVRs should be able to accept credit card payments. Self-pay patients often choose to pay with credit cards, so obtaining preauthorization for charges is important. Practices should also implement time-of-service collections wherein payment is expected when services are rendered. For those who can’t pay the full balance, integrate a payment agreement into the check-out process.
3: Develop Payment Incentives and Plans
Sometimes rewarding patients for payment choices can actually improve profitability. Examples include discounts for paying at the time of visit or if paid in cash instead of by credit card. However, even with a discount, large deductibles and copays are simply unaffordable for some patients. To address this challenge, a financial professional can help develop payment plan options. When implementing, it’s important to clearly communicate the parameters of a payment plan by outlining the minimum balance required, how much is owed each month, and how long the patient has to pay their balance. Again, the utilization of technology is only going to bolster the collections process. Electronic billing and payments offer flexibility that encourages patients to pay on time. That makes it easier to track how much money they owe.
4: Communicate Consistently
Consistent communication (in person and electronically) is a straightforward way to improve ease of payment. Automated reminder calls are great for alerting patients about payment balances and obligations. Knowing what they will owe at the time of service makes a payment more likely. If reminders are done with a human representative, standard messaging should confirm insurance information and any changes, in addition to relaying payment policies. An important component of consistent communication is making contact information readily available. It should be printed on billing statements, included in emails, and on the homepage of websites or portals. Poor communication can cause patients to lose confidence in their medical provider, the standard of care aside. By taking simple steps to be a straightforward communicator, medical practices can increase the likelihood of payment.
5: Invest In Customer Experience
The importance of a customer-oriented approach extends far beyond retail. With the number of self-pay patients increasing each year, orienting towards that type of collection should become a natural part of the workflow. Training staff on proper communication is crucial, so provide scripts for asking for co-pays, deductibles, and balances. When affordability arises as an issue, it’s important for healthcare providers to empower their patients by offering payment plans and providing financial counsel. Promoting a positive experience reduces patient anxiety and makes bill payment more likely. Studies show that patient satisfaction is tied to both the quality of care and a facility’s investment in their financial well-being.
Is your practice struggling with patient responsibility and self-pay revenue? Download our free guide that outlines 10 strategies for optimizing your practice revenue.