With higher deductibles, employers shifting insurance costs to their employees, and increasing numbers of the uninsured, patients are increasingly responsible for a higher portion of their healthcare costs. These changes are at least partially responsible for a recent spike in rates of uncollected medical bills. And the pandemic further impeded patient ability to pay for healthcare services.
Typical debt collection methods, such as repeated reminders and phone calls, aren’t likely to increase a provider’s chances of receiving payment, but by focusing on patient satisfaction and adding a measure of humanity to the revenue cycle, providers stand a better chance of collecting payment and fortifying their financial health.
Initial patient encounters are key to creating a solid, trusting doctor-patient relationship. Make the most of these meetings by treating them less as a simple information gathering process and more as a chance to lay the foundations for a positive relationship. Emphasize patient health education and provide detailed estimates of their out-of-pocket expenses. Providers should establish themselves as healthcare advocates, and make sure patients are empowered with the knowledge they need to make appropriate decisions about their care — and how to pay for it.
Communication is key to the doctor-patient relationship and essential for patient satisfaction. Prioritize the communication methods your patients prefer, whether it’s print, email, text, phone, or patient interactive voice response (IVR). Consider offering telehealth appointments for follow-up visits, and offer your patients a dedicated portal where they can access their medical records, treatment information, and payment options in one place. Patients are more likely to understand their treatment — and the cost it incurs — if they remain in regular communication with their providers.
No “one size fits all”
Every patient has specific healthcare needs and preferences. Personalize care for each individual patient, and consider customizing their fees and payment plans as well. Leverage data and analytics to understand a patient’s needs, family and employment situations, and ability to pay. Use data to determine when to extend charity or offer unique payment plans.
Providers are much more likely to receive partial payment — if not full compensation — when they demonstrate willingness to work with their patients. Patients don’t like being in debt any more than providers enjoy collecting it, and everyone is likely to get better results when they collaborate to find solutions. Repeated bill reminders and calls do little to increase a provider’s chances of getting paid, but they can do a lot of damage to the provider-patient relationship and contribute to patients avoiding care when they need it most.
Contact TruBridge for help humanizing your revenue cycle management.
Written by Michael Holmes
TruBridge Sr Director, Revenue Cycle Solutions