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Greasing the Wheels of Patient Collections

This is an excerpt from our webinar “Prioritizing Patients Accounts Receivable”, part of Rivet’s Revenue Cycle Webinar Series. Watch the webinar on demand here.

Greasing the Wheels of Patient Collections

For today’s healthcare providers, it’s hard to ignore the movement toward greater financial transparency. We’ve seen recent legislation that has prompted healthcare systems to publish prices, and 92% of healthcare patients want to know their payment responsibilities up-front. Patients are becoming consumers and they are more focused than ever on clarifying expectations for expense as well as care. This means that a major goal of providers should be to make meaningful changes that result in greater financial transparency. 

How Do We Add Financial Transparency to the Equation? 

 

Step 1. Financially Clear All Patients 

The first step toward greater financial transparency is to financially clear all patients. Make sure you are running insurance verification on every patient, every time. Where possible, make use of your practice management system to confirm benefits, ensure that the patient is still active, and confirm their out of pocket liability. 

Next, estimate costs. This can be accomplished by using CPT codes or historical claims as a best-guess to help patients understand what they might owe. Once this information is attained, communicate cost expectations with the patient. Clearly communicating expectations may help to accelerate their financial mentality several cycles further into the revenue cycle, making them more likely to settle their account in a timely manner.  

Once expectations are set, have a game plan in place for collecting payment. Ask the patient how they plan to pay and discuss what is due up-front. Establishing this framework before the service will help the patient make a plan and will help reduce collection efforts. 

Finally, work toward collecting deductibles/coinsurance up-front. This may feel foreign as the standard has been only to collect copays, however, moving toward creating a policy based on your good-faith estimate for deductibles, especially for high-dollar services, can aid in the acceleration of cash-timing and reduce the cost to collect. Collecting this sum up-front may also result in a reduction of the amount of write-offs and bad debt. 

With Rivet, practices can automate eligibility checks and produce patient cost estimates that are accurate dollar for dollar, based on historical claims data, billing rules, and contract details. See Rivet in action

Step 2. Help Patients Understand Multiple Bills

When a patient receives a bill from multiple providers for one service it can be confusing and frustrating. And while you cannot quote the costs of other providers, you can help them to understand the financial landscape. Empowering patients with knowledge beforehand, such as who they should anticipate receiving a bill from, will help your practice be more transparent and will improve the patient’s overall satisfaction. 

Step 3. Outstanding Balances 

Oftentimes patients do not realize that they have a residual balance on their account from a previous visit. To help clear these balances, be sure all patients are made aware of any outstanding balance whenever they check in for an appointment. 

Step 4. Explain Non-Covered/Elective Procedures

Patients may be surprised when a particular procedure is not covered by insurance. As a result, it is the provider’s responsibility to clearly communicate with the patient when a cost will not be covered and explain the reason it is not covered (not medically necessary, non-covered elective procedure, etc.). 

Step 5. Provide Assistance Where Applicable

Where possible, providers should help patients find alternative funding (foundations, group insurances) to help offset patient costs. To accomplish this, providers should work to make themselves aware of different funding options available in the market that can assist patients. 

Step 6. Bill Residual Balances as Quickly as Possible

Make it a priority within your practice to close the window from the date of services rendered to when the statement or bill is sent. Don’t leave balances unbilled for 30, 60 or 90 days. 

Patient Friendly Payments 

Facilitating ease of payment for patients is another major factor in successful collections. To achieve this, many practices have adopted the use of an online patient portal where patients have access to medical records, charts, labs, clinical components as well as outstanding balances. Online patient portals can be very effective, however, they are not always easily accessible. As a result, ease of registration and simple, easy, access are crucial when considering the use of a patient portal. 

The acceptance of credit card payments are also essential when working to make payments more patient friendly. If your practice is not set up to accept credit cards in multiple ways (point of service, kiosks, calling in), consider making accommodations to do so. Forty percent of patients state that a credit card is their number one method of payment, making the facilitating of credit card payments necessary for effective patient collections. 

Along with credit cards, cash is still king for many patients and it is easy to collect. Although you may have many modern tools for payment collection in your office, you should still have a process in place to adequately collect cash. 

Lastly, consider adopting modern payment platforms such as Apple Pay. These platforms increase the checkout speed, decrease the amount of time the patient spends thinking about the transaction and allows balances to be paid with ease. 

In 2020, it’s easier than ever to communicate. With Rivet, your practice can bring that simplicity to your patient communication. Send estimates via HIPAA compliant text, email, or paper and collect more payments than ever with upfront mobile payments. See Rivet in action

Structure your Financial Touchpoints

When thinking about financial touchpoints (bills sent, collection calls made) a shift in mentality might be helpful, and more does not equal better. If you are considering an increase in the frequency of financial touchpoints, be sure you are doing it with the goal to help patients understand their liability as well as to incentivize payment. Bombarding patients with bills and calls can backfire as it may make the patient apathetic to payment. Instead, work to be an advocate for patients, and incentivize them to pay with a positive experience at your practice. 

To make your financial touchpoints more meaningful, work to develop a formal cadence for statements, calls, and letters. You can also employ modern platforms (text, email, etc.) to be more effective in connecting with patients. Patients are more connected to their devices than ever, and these methods may help to reduce cost to collect, improve collection rates, and improve patient satisfaction. 

As patients become consumers, providers must be on their game more than ever. Working to make your practice more transparent won’t only influence patients to choose you as a provider, but will result in higher patient satisfaction and more effective collection practices. 

For more tips and resources for improving transparency at your practice: 

Watch the full webinar "Prioritizing Patient Accounts Receivable" here 

When Did it Become so Difficult to Collect Patient A/R? 

Strategies for Prioritizing Patient A/R