5 Ways to Improve Patient Collections
New isn’t always better. Some products made these days with more advanced technology might seem to be improved but lack the durability of their predecessors. For example, the lifespan of most appliances built today is shorter than it was decades ago, although they’re certainly less expensive.
In many cases, though, technology has improved products, including those utilized in healthcare. When digital solutions are designed properly, they promote interoperability, enabling patients to share data among multiple providers. Such solutions help reduce overall costs and offer convenience for patients – a central tenet of healthcare consumerism.
Even with these benefits, some medical groups still utilize manual and paper processes, which often are more error-prone and less efficient. Plus, they’re less effective in collecting payment from patients.
Did you know that more than nearly 80 percent of healthcare providers report that it takes more than one month to collect any patient payment, and almost that many aren’t able to collect $1,000 or more in 30 days? Maybe it’s because almost 90 percent of medical groups still send mailed statements — an outdated method — to collect these payments. The problem with that is that only half of patients pay medical bills they receive by postal mail.
According to the Healthcare Payments Insight Report, 79 percent of patients worldwide use contactless methods, and almost half that don’t would like their healthcare provider to offer such methods. More than 50 percent of patients report that the COVID-19 pandemic impacted how they pay their providers.
In this age of consumerism, it’s imperative that providers use methods that meet patient preferences. They also, though, should follow best practices geared toward increasing collections, especially as they continue to recoup revenue lost during the pandemic. Doing so allows them to mitigate the negative effects of reimbursement delays and poor cash flow and reduce their cost to collect.
To which best practices are we referring? Here are a few of the big ones:
1. Promote price transparency.
Patients want to know approximately how much they’re responsible for paying upfront and what’s covered by their insurance. Although legislation was passed requiring health payers to allow patients to access providers’ prices for multiple services and procedures, that data can be hard to understand. Many patients don’t know how much they owe until they receive a bill and therefore are slower in paying.
Let your patients know that full or partial payment is due at the time of service. Even if you aren’t able to give them an exact amount for their financial responsibility for care, providing them with an estimate typically increases patient satisfaction. The result is fewer accounts sent to a collection agency and less bad debt.
2. Provide multiple options for payment.
Giving patients more than one way to pay their medical bill — utilizing an omnichannel approach —increases the likelihood they’ll follow through with payment. Omnichannel refers to a combination of payment modalities, including online, mobile, in-person, via email, and over-the-phone.
Take text messaging, for example. Almost half of patients would pay by text if given the choice. Digital forms of payment, including those with card-on-file capabilities, are becoming especially popular among millennials. So are HIPAA-compliant patient portals.
3. Offer payment plans.
Receiving a big medical bill can be scary for a lot of patients. If they think they have to pay the entire bill at once, they may decide not to pay it at all.
When you promote payment plans, you enable patients to pay off medical debt a little at a time instead of all at once. You can also offer a discounted amount for any patient who enrolls in your payment program or those who are uninsured. The advantage for your medical group? It allows you to help streamline your collection process while procuring more patient payments.
4. Utilize point-of-care collection.
According to research, physician practices only collect 50-70 percent of payments once patients leave the office. Collecting amounts due from patients at the time of service, or at the point of care (POC), allows you to boost your revenue cycle by reducing accounts receivable and back-end collection costs, increasing cash flow, and decreasing the administrative burdens of tracking and writing off bad patient debt. Make sure that the patient contact and insurance information you collect is accurate and up-to-date.
5. Routinely train your staff.
Educating your staff about the importance of upfront collections makes it easier for them to discuss the issue with patients. Train them about specific collections procedures — like how to create cost estimates and read eligibility screens — and how to ask patients for payment without offending them. Your team members should be able to explain things such as deductible, copayment, coinsurance, and out-of-pocket maximum, and provide resources for questions they might not be able to answer (i.e., health plan issues). Also, this communication should take place at the time of check-in, during the healthcare process, and at the end of service, as needed.
If you don’t think payment is an important part of your interaction with patients, you might not be aware that many individuals who aren’t offered a favorable payment experience are likely to switch to a different provider. At Epion, our payment feature provides patients with a positive experience by enabling them to review their co-pays and outstanding balances during check-in, pay at the time of service with any major credit or debit card or qualified HSA/FSA card, and set up a card on file for annual payment contracts, to cover co-insurance obligations, or to make payments. Schedule a meeting with us to learn more!