In a perfect world, we could all have everything we want. Alas, this will never be the case, but for medical providers looking for better revenue cycle management, insight into patients' minds may be the key to unlocking successful financial models.
It's no secret that medical bills are seldom small. Patient visits to private practices across the United States can cost hundreds to thousands of dollars per visit. As medical expenses continue to climb, patients are also being handed heavier responsibilities with regard to paying these high premiums.
Naturally, medical facilities need to receive payment for their services, but with costs reaching historic highs, patients are being stretched to their limits. Now is the time when medical facilities need to take action and understand how their patients are paying their medical bills versus how they want to pay. When organizations come to an understanding about the discrepancies, only then can more successful revenue cycle management occur.
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Translucency vs. Transparency
Being upfront with your patients about their medical costs is not only an ethical matter, it's often a financial matter, too. In a translucent environment, medical providers give patients just enough information to fulfill their appointments, but the patients don't often understand the eventual outcomes. Transparent billing, on the other hand, relies on honest, open data that allows the patient to be fully in-the-know about the final invoice with which he or she may be presented.
As stated by HFMA.org, "Price transparency should ultimately provide patients with the information they need to understand the total price of their care and what is included in that price." As it stands now, many patients are being presented with bills that aren't inclusive of detailed information, and many people don't understand what they're being asked to pay for. When patients don't understand their bills, many will simply choose not to pay them, which can cause a significant financial burden to medical providers.
To counteract this behavior, physicians should seek opportunities to educate patients of care costs -- and identify tools that can provide a more simplistic and transparent explanation of medical bills.
Old-School Methods vs. Convenience
The range of patient expectations in today's market is perhaps the greatest it's been since medicine was discovered. On one end of the spectrum, providers are seeing Baby Boomers and beyond who had very little exposure to technology in their formative years. On the other hand, millennials and newer generations are taking the scene by storm, bringing with them high expectations for convenience.
Practices that want to fully engage with their patients need to consider implementing patient portals, which cater to today's patient-centric environment. While patients who are presented with in-the-mail invoices may pay their bills, the overwhelming majority will likely not even notice that letter in the mail.
Medical organizations that are struggling to realize full revenue cycle management should evaluate their billing practices. If traditional practices are seen in a better light than modern, convenient methods of payment such as patient portals, check-in kiosks, and mobile apps, it's time to consider a complete process revamp.
Traditional Expectations vs. Confidence
There once was a time when medical providers could bill patients, and they knew they would be paid. Today's patients are looking for more than just a bill in the mail; they're looking for quality service at every touch point of their medical journey, and providers' revenues are often contingent upon their delivery of such expectations.
Surveys that seek feedback about patients' experiences, when coupled with requests for pay, can often lead to more rapid closure of the revenue cycle. Patients want to know their voices are being heard, and when they know their feedback is valued, they're more likely to make timely payments. It's all about having confidence in the provider -- when patients have great experiences, they aren't as hesitant to pay their medical invoices. In the end, customer service prevails.
As a medical provider, it's your duty to ensure that your patients receive optimal care and customer service. Many organizations fail to incorporate the overall patient experience into the big picture of financial success. If your medical facility isn't doing everything it can to optimize transparency, boost confidence, and build upon convenient payment methods, you're likely losing out on a great patient base. As you look to the coming year, consider ways you can incorporate patient-friendly payment options that will allow your organization to grow.