Nearly three in five Americans delay paying their medical bills, and nearly three in 10 insured Americans have had an unpaid medical debt sent to a collection agency.
Recent research shows patients distracted by payment concerns are less likely to comply with medical plans, and clinicians distracted by administrative financial tasks end up spending less time with patients. Improving communication with patients about their medical costs increases the likelihood of payment, minimizes your practice's expenses in obtaining that payment, improves the patient-provider relationship, and leads to better health outcomes.
How can you improve communication with patients about their medical bills? Follow these three guidelines:
- Be proactive in discussing billing with your patients, and be transparent about the costs.
- Educate your entire staff about your billing practices.
- Work with your patients on options for payment.
1. Be Forward, Transparent, and Proactive
Let patients know the costs for visits and procedures in advance, inform them of their financial responsibility, and tell them their options for payment.
Don’t shy away from discussing billing with your patient. They actually prefer that you be open and transparent with them. In a recent survey, respondents complained about their challenges obtaining expected out-of-pocket cost information. Approximately 60 percent claim to have tried to get that information from providers ahead of care, and 51 percent reported that they did not get it easily or accurately.
Discuss what is and isn’t covered by their insurance, and notify them of what their out-of-pocket expenses will be so they can plan accordingly. Also, be sure to review all payment options along with how and when their payments are due.
2. Educate Staff
Train staff on how to communicate with patients about billing issues. Be sure your staff communicates consistently and in alignment with your practice policies.
It is impossible to have a billing staff member with a patient at all times. An ordered test may not be covered by insurance. Equip clinical staff with information on the test, exams, or labs that may not be covered so they can alert patients when needed. Also, provide scripts and train your clinical staff on how to discuss billing with patients in an effective and proactive way.
3. Offer Payment Options
Offer flexible payment plans, work with your patients' circumstances and ability to pay, and provide alternative ways to pay, such as an online portal.
Many patients are financially responsible and want to pay their bill in full. But with the rise of high-deductible health plans, their financial burden has increased. One in four insured employees now has a single-person deductible of at least $2,000. Plus, the surprise of medical expenses can add stress to an already sick patient. Explain that you are willing to work with them when needed. Offer flexible payment plans that include a monthly payment that will work for your office and the patient. This will help lower their anxiety and increase the likelihood of a medical bill being paid off in full.
Additionally, nearly half of survey respondents reported they were frustrated about their provider’s lack of adoption of digital processes such as online bill pay. Allowing electronic payments increases the likelihood of payment from more patients.
By communicating and working with your patients, you can easily help turn around your practice’s collections performance. This leads to bills getting paid in full faster, an increase in your office’s profitability, and the overall success of your practice. Visit www.pcisgold.com to see what tools the PCIS GOLD PM and EHR have that can help your patient billing process and collections.