Today, more than ever, healthcare providers who want their patient collection strategies to succeed need to be involved in how their patients pay. Patients have a lot of decisions to make about their healthcare, one of the most burdensome being cost. To ensure patients make payments on time, consistent education and engagement is required.
Providers who want to serve their patients to the fullest need to help them learn the value of upfront payments. With insurance deductibles at an all-time high, most patients are willing to listen to reasonable ideas about how to save money. Start that conversation immediately to have the best chance of engagement throughout the patient's healthcare journey. And to the provider's benefit, payments collected at the point of service drastically increase the chance of payments made in full.
Let's look at five simple ways to empower patients to make upfront payments and reduce patient bad debt at your organization.
1. Use Transparent Pricing
Oftentimes, medical bills appear coded in some cryptic language that only the physician and billing department can comprehend. The patient, who bears the responsibility of paying for the services, has little idea of what the charges cover. It's not uncommon for patients to set their bills aside, saying they will call later to sort it out, and completely forget about it. Paying in installments becomes the default in such cases. Sometimes, the patient won’t pay at all.
Transparency in billing is a better way to encourage patients to pay upfront. When patients are given an estimate of what they will owe, they are better prepared to make financial arrangements. For example, when possible, an explanation of out-of-pocket expenses versus the amount insurance will cover will give patients the information they need to adequately plan for payment. As a result, patients are empowered in not only the financial aspect of their visit, but their entire healthcare experience is improved.
2. Provide Discounts For Those Who Pay Early
Who doesn't love a discount? A common strategy for healthcare organizations is to offer discounts to patients who pay a certain amount or for those that pay their bill early.
3. Make Payment Schedule Examples Available
Some health systems may have the ability to finance certain medical procedures. This appears an attractive option to many patients initially, but only when they don't fully understand the implications, i.e. how much extra they will pay in interest and finance charges.
Organizations who offer this option should invest time and resources to make infographics or other viusals that explain the additional costs associated with a finance option. The ability to visualize the extra money spent versus the savings associated with an upfront payment could be just the motivation some need.
4. Communicate Throughout the Patient's Journey
Patients need to be assured that there are people available to help answer any questions they may have in regards to their medical bills. Education and engagement are the tools that healthcare organizations need to empower patients to make the best decisions in regards to their healthcare.
The catalyst in the communication process is the front desk. It is therefore essential that front office staff are trained in the most effective means of communication to handle the payment conversation with patients at the time of service.
5. Offer Point-of-Service (POS) Technology
Patients not only need to be educated to make payments at the point of service, they need to be provided with the most effective tools to do so. A POS terminal is easy for patients and staff to use, and convenient to install, taking little space at the front desk. Much like at a grocery store, a self-service kiosk or terminal allows patients to pay their bills, check their insurance coverage, and estimate what they will ower for their visit.
The consumer-centric nature of healthcare today has prompted a need for change in the way healthcare providers communicate with their patients. The financial aspects of the healthcare industry have shifted the majority of the responsibility for payment from payers to patients. As a result, patients require a different approach to how they are communicated with. For healthcare organizations to be successful with patient collections and the reduction of patient bad debt, consistent communication, education, and engagement are necessary. These strategies will empower patients to successfully manage their healthcare expenses and improve their overall healthcare experience.