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Solving for the Patient Experience

This is an excerpt from our webinar “Delivering an Upfront Patient Cost Experience”, part of Rivet’s Revenue Cycle Webinar Series. Watch the webinar on demand here.

Healthcare is unique in many ways, but it’s most glaring oddity might be that it is one of the only remaining industries where you may receive thousands of dollars worth of procedures without knowing what they will cost, but still be expected to pay for them. And while this way of doing business may still be the norm in many practices, it’s a good idea to work toward transparency if your goal is greater patient satisfaction and better collections. 

Tips for Conveying Patient Costs 

For many patients, receiving healthcare services can be very stressful. Patients have to deal with scheduling, travel logistics, missed work, recovery concerns and more, and that’s before even considering the financial component. As a result, it’s in the provider’s best interest to create policies that will help the patient feel supported and informed. 

The following are our tips for thoughtfully conveying patient costs:

  1. Know your information before speaking with the patient.

    What procedure does the patient need?  What information should your team gather in order to inform the patient effectively? Ensure that your team is well educated, keeping in mind that the patient’s time is valuable. 

  2. Be clear and concise when communicating about needed services and their associated costs.

    Work to help your patient understand what part the insurance will pay and what they will be expected to pay. 

  3. Identify your collection goal and set a policy around your collection practices.

    For example, set balance thresholds, determine discounts, etc. 

  4. Know your policies and be consistent so the patient feels they are in good hands.

    Patient satisfaction throughout the process is critical to the strength of your collections. 

  5. Communicate with patients on their preferred platform.

    Studies show that 42.9% want to be contacted by their doctor’s office via phone, 25.1% email, and 13% mail.

How to Engage the Patient Financially

Improved collections at your practice will come as a result of better, not more, financial touchpoints. This process starts early in the patient relationship and requires having a transparent conversation about the cost ahead of time. If done effectively, these conversations will establish upfront collection requirements that will engender trust. They will also prepare the patient for what to expect when they receive a bill, making them more likely to pay early.

During this financial conversation, take the time to close the loop on residual patient questions, making sure you are empathetic to what they are experiencing. Offer to help if they seem unsettled. In addition, be sure to ask the right type of questions while discussing payment. For instance, instead of asking a patient if they would like to pay, ask them how they would like to pay. 

Measuring Success

Investing a large amount of time, money, and effort is often essential when implementing new strategies within your practice. However, in order to determine whether a process is working overall, you must have the proper metrics in place. These might include: 

  1. Feedback Mechanism Across Teams.

    Does the financial team have a hard time getting the correct procedure code from the scheduling team? Do patients have issues with their estimates? Solving these kinds of team-based issues starts by developing a mechanism across teams so that feedback can be gathered and changes can be implemented. 

  2. Patient satisfaction/engagement metrics.

    Regularly take the temperature on patient satisfaction. This can be done by sending out surveys via text, email, etc. 

  3. Identify point of service cash baseline.

    Have a policy in place for collecting some amount of money upfront. This aids in the goal of keeping the patient visit and the patient finances close together, resulting in an improvement in the overall collection rate. 

  4. Track payments.

    How are patients paying? Identifying how they are paying will help you to cater to their needs, making paying easier. 

  5. Timely correction of credits/residual balance.

    Refund credits in a timely manner and bill patients as quickly as possible. 

  6. Set effective transaction codes.

    Strong transaction codes lead to better reporting. For instance, you could develop a transaction code in your EHR/PM to identify and track upfront patient payments so your team knows where those payments are coming from. 

By instituting a few new policies and procedures to create best practices around your financial touchpoints it’s possible to feel more comfortable discussing patient payments in your revenue cycle. 

For more tips on the ways added transparency can result in greater patient satisfaction:
Watch the full webinar here
Read "Delivering an Upfront Patient Cost Experience"