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  • Writer's pictureRMK HOLDINGS INC.

Making Healthcare Billing and Collections Patient Centric

In the age of patient-centric healthcare, there is an increased focus on improving the patient’s experience from the moment s/he calls for an appointment to when they receive their bill. Today’s environment calls for a more seamless and personalized experience as patients take a more active role in managing their financial healthcare journey. Healthcare providers have a unique opportunity to both increase patient satisfaction and positively impact the bottom line. According to a survey study by HealthPay24, 65% of patients indicate that transparency about the cost of care is hugely important for overall satisfaction, yet 77% still face unpredictable costs when accessing healthcare services.

As patients are increasingly more informed about their care options, healthcare organizations need to ensure that their billing and collection processes are just as focused on the patient’s needs as the rest of the healthcare system.

Despite greater insurance coverage, healthcare consumers are still having a difficult time understanding their medical bills. A Waystar 2020 survey revealed that just over half lacked knowledge of the charges and why they were responsible for them. Additionally, approximately 50% paid late due to confusion regarding the bill. Reasons included incorrect amount on statements or uncertainty in payment dates. The research findings suggest Gen Z (born 1997 to 2012) and Millennial patients (born 1981 to 1996) reported far higher levels of stress surrounding the billing process than their Gen X (born 1965 to 1980) & Baby Boomer counterparts (born 1946 to 1964). Stress is a key concern for younger generations when encountering medical bills, emphasizing the need to ensure an efficient payment and collections experience.

In response to these concerning realities, new laws and regulations attempt to make healthcare costs more transparent so customers can better assess how much money should be exchanged between provider and patient for services rendered. However, there still remains an urgent need for clearer billing procedures and consumer-friendly policies. Remember: simpler bills mean better patient financial outcomes.

Here are some tips for making your billing and collection process more patient-centric.

Ease of Use

The billing and collection process should be easy for both patients and doctors to use. Make sure that all forms, instructions, and payment instructions are clearly laid out in a way that is easy to understand. Providing clear estimates ahead-of-time can alleviate uncertainty, releasing some financial stress on consumers while creating more informed customers who are pleased with the clarity they receive from you. Additionally, make sure that any online forms or payment portals have a user-friendly interface so that it’s not too difficult for patients to navigate them. And by all means, ensure patient use documents are up to date. By remaining proactive, you can ensure your patients are receiving the highest level of care possible to foster patient loyalty.

Cross Department Clear Communication

A critical step for any healthcare organization is to establish clear communication between departments about billing and collections. This will help ensure that all parties involved understand what is expected from them when it comes to payment processing. It will also help prevent confusion down the road as different departments may have different ideas about how bills should be processed and collected.

Patient Clear Communication

Communication is key when it comes to billing and collection processes. Patients should be informed about what services were provided, how much those services cost, what insurance coverage (if any) applies, etc., before they leave the office so there are no surprises when they get their bill at home. Additionally, make sure you communicate any changes in policy (such as changes in co-pays/deductibles/other out of pocket) up front so there is no confusion later down the line. If your office has been lax or reliant upon a posted sign, it is a good idea to hold ongoing training and role playing to prepare for different patient responses.

Patient Education

It’s important for healthcare organizations to provide education on their billing and collection processes. This can include providing patients with easy-to-understand explanations of their bills as well as information about their insurance coverage. Organizations should also make sure that patients understand what forms of payment they accept so that they are aware of their options when paying their bill. Providing educational materials about financial assistance programs or charity care options is another great way for organizations to remain patient-centric while helping patients who may not be able to afford their medical bills. Many patients do not know their provider offers assistance or they simply do not know how to qualify and what to do next. Take a hands on approach and discuss your financial assistance options rather than simply providing a document.

Customer Service Practices

Healthcare organizations should ensure that they have strong customer service practices in place when interacting with patients regarding their bills or payments. This includes being clear about any fees associated with late payments or missed appointments, offering flexible payment plans for those who may need them, as well as making sure staff members are trained on how to handle difficult conversations with patience and respect. By treating all patients with courtesy, your clinic will have a positive reputation, ensuring no one feels uncomfortable or embarrassed when discussing money matters related to healthcare services. Empathy and compassion can convert to a paying patient.

Leverage Technology

Create an automated billing system that makes it easy for patients to understand their bills and pay them on time. Automated systems can help reduce the amount of manual work needed by staff members, decrease errors associated with manual entry, and provide real-time visibility into accounts receivable (AR). Additionally, these systems make it easier for patients to pay their bills quickly. Patients may prefer paperless billing or other forms of digital communication such as text-based billing. To streamline, opt all patients into this feature with the safety net of a paper bill to be delivered after a preset time period if the electronic invoice is not opened.

As artificial intelligence gains traction, utilizing customer service technology such as chatbots or virtual assistants which allow customers to ask questions or get assistance with their billings without having to interact directly with staff members may also be quite commonplace. These technologies can help improve customer satisfaction while reducing costs associated with staffing customer service lines or dealing with manual inquiries. Furthermore, using this technology can give customers access to detailed information quickly while still providing human contact where necessary.

Payment Options

Offer different payment options to make it easier for patients to pay their bills. This could include online payments via credit/debit cards, ACH or digital wallets, automated flexible payment plans, or even offering discounts if patients pay in cash or check upfront. Some practices adopt a card on file strategy that allows for balances under $ 200.00 to automatically be collected. When utilizing a click through payment option, make it easy for your patient to remember what to input. Oftentimes they may not know where the account number is on the bill or remember their login. Allowing multiple payment methods makes it easier for patients to choose one that fits into their budget and lifestyle while giving you better control of cash flow.

In Closing

Creating a patient-centric billing and collection process for your healthcare organization is essential in order to ensure that patients are satisfied with their services while also ensuring that payments are received in a timely manner. By implementing automated tools, educating patients on billing processes, and maintaining strong customer service practices, healthcare organizations can create a streamlined billing and collection process that is both efficient and patient centric. Such a process will help maintain relationships between you and your patients while also improving the bottom line of the organization overall. With these steps in place, you will be able to provide an efficient yet personalized experience for your patients while still maximizing the bottom line.

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