Undoubtedly, insurance deductibles are on the rise. As a result, rising deductibles have drastically increased the amount that patients must pay out-of-pocket. This dynamic can increase the likelihood of delayed and non-payment, a challenge that is highest at the beginning of the year when deductibles reset.
For many organizations, the start of the New Year poses the greatest threat to increased patient bad debt throughout the year. Start the New Year off right with proactive patient collection strategies.
To better manage the threat to the bottom line that providers face, they need to adopt proactive solutions to collect patient payments.
4 Tips to Maximize Patient Payments at the Beginning of the Year
There are a number of tools at your disposal to better communicate with and educate your patients, as well as improve the payment cycle overall.
1. Adopt a Payment Protocol. Every organization, from the small practice to larger healthcare systems, needs a set protocol for collecting patient payments. Staff should be trained in a consistent way to collect payments and patients should be informed up front. Many organizations have begun to place more emphasis on point of service payment collection, which virtually eliminates outstanding patient balances. When patients are made aware of payment expectations ahead of time, they are more likely to come prepared to pay.
The chances of collecting past due patient payments are drastically reduced after the point of service.
2. Patient Eligibility Verification. In order to best serve the patient and encourage prompt payment, eligibility verification tools allow the front desk to check how much of the patient's treatment will be covered in advance. With this technology, the patient is aware of their responsibility prior to incurring charges. This allows a level of transparency that is highly valued from the new healthcare consumer as it helps them better manage their healthcare finances.
3. Card on File. Using a card on file policy greatly decreases delinquent patient payments. Systems that enable card on file policies can store patient payment information securely and directly withdraw their co-pay and balance, either at the time of the visit or on a set schedule arranged with the patient ahead of time.
4. Patient Convenience. Patients are more likely to pay on schedule if they're offered payment options which are convenient to them. For instance, paper statements sent via the mail typically have a greater lag time than web portal payment because many patients pay the majority of their bills online.
Healthcare organizations which offer a variety of payment options to best suit their patients often collect patient balances in a much shorter time span. Mark Ehalt, senior director or revenue cycle operations for the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center agrees, stating,
"where we've moved over the past five years, is self-service".
Some examples of patient convenient platforms might include self-service technology and mobile apps which offer patients the convenience to check-in for appointments, manage their finances, and view any pertinent information from their physicians.
For most healthcare organizations, the beginning of the year poses the greatest challenge in collecting patient payments. In order to better meet your needs, as well as the patient's, it's important to tackle this issue right away by opening the conversation with patients. Make certain patients know any protocol you've put in place regarding payment and make sure that the conversation is open, so each patient feels comfortable honestly discussing their financial needs with the organization.
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