Patient-friendly billing: Three tips for success
Today’s patients face bigger medical bills than ever before. And in many cases, they’re not prepared to pay them.
According to a recent TransUnion Healthcare study, 68 percent of patients with bills of $500 or less did not pay the full balance in 2016, up from 53 percent in 2015 and 49 percent in 2014. And the trend of not paying balances in full is only expected to continue: TransUnion’s analysis predicts the percentage of patients not paying their bills in full will reach 95 percent by 2020.
As patient financial responsibility increases, providing them with straightforward, patient-friendly financial information is more important than ever. Is your ambulatory surgery center (ASC) doing everything it can to streamline the billing experience and optimize collections? Here are several ways to implement patient-friendly billing practices at your center:
Establish front desk standards
Does your front desk staff collect co-payments at the time of service? Proper training of office staff is vital to accomplishing this goal, so consider providing staff with sample scripts on how to request payments. Whether it’s over the phone or at the time of service, informing patients of their financial obligation and asking for payment up front are critical components of improving patient satisfaction — and in turn, facility performance.
Front office staff is the most important resource when it comes to collecting payments and following up on outstanding bills. Why? Because collection rates drop significantly once a patient walks out the door. Implementing patient-friendly billing standards will change your business for the better.
Consumers want to stay in the loop. Give them the information they need by providing a description of credit and collection policies to all new patients. They also won’t be caught off guard. Be concise about their responsibility for making copayments at the time of service as well as how your center invoices. Upfront communication simplifies billing on the back end, making your facility less likely to receive complaints.
And when it comes to bills, standardize written communication and include essential information only. Bills should include charges at the procedure level, the portion paid by insurance and the patient’s responsibility. Also, provide information to help patients better understand how they can meet their financial obligations. After sending the initial bill, mail patients monthly balance statements highlighting all current activity.
Simplify the payment process
According to a 2015 PricewaterhouseCoopers survey, nearly a quarter of consumers “did not find bills simple to pay.” What’s more, 30 percent of those with self-reported fair or poor health expressed this sentiment.
Do you give patients options when it comes to payments? In today’s competitive landscape, doing so is a must. Many patients want to pay with credit and debit cards at the point of service — or pay later through an online portal. Only accepting cash and checks won’t cut it.
But don’t stop there: Patients should be called periodically and reminded of their obligations. Twenty-four-hour call center services also provide patients with the convenience to pay their bills at any time.
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