The cost of medical care continues to rise while wrangling over the Affordable Care Act replacement continues (and it will continue). With the political turmoil surrounding this issue unlikely to settle down any time soon, the exodus to high-deductible health plans is expected to increase the self-pay payer mix by 4.2% this year.
This means more patients will be responsible for more of their medical expenses, while timely collection of that money will be increasingly vital for practices of all sizes.
Managing the cost of collecting those funds is also imperative. A comprehensive patient communication policy , together with optimized revenue cycle operations in the EMR or practice management suite, can accomplish both tasks, providing effective point-of-service collection workflows and more proactive in-house digital collections.
A solid communications policy makes the payment process easier for patients, which expedites collections. Practices can take steps to improve their financial interactions. These include:
- Implementing tools to quickly check insurance eligibility on everypatient prior to every visit to identify what copay or deductibles are due. Many eligibility- checking products allow real-time verification of eligibility and benefit status at the time of service.
- Emphasizing positive financial interactions with patients, offering realistic payment plans, and providing human assistance with payment questions.
- Accepting payments through the practice’s patient portal or website. Accept as many types of payment as possible, from cash and credit/debit cards to paper checks.
- Offering digital billing and reminder options such as text messages, push notifications, and email to personalize the patient’s financial experience. Some patients prefer to receive one paper copy of a bill, then email or text reminders. Others may pay immediately upon receiving the first bill via email.
- Issuing patient statements at least weekly, regardless of the platform used. The status of these statements should be visible to your office staff.
There is room for collections improvement in most practices because revenue cycle processes remain manual, according to one report. Small practice leaders tend to take a dim view of EMRs and other automated solutions, and many are operating with budgets that are already stretched tight enough for percussion. Limited available investment capital makes it harder to implement technology-driven revenue cycle management.
However, as operating margins continue to tighten and patients pay more for their healthcare choices, practices are discovering that electronic payment collection tools are essential. Indeed, patients might already be going to the competitor down the street who provides concise billing information and allows them to pay the way they want.
- Reuters, July 28, 2017, “In blow to Trump, Republican bid to gut Obamacare crashes in Senate,” by Yasmeen Abutaleb, Amanda Becker and David Morgan, http://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-healthcare-idUSKBN1AC1G0
- Healthcare Finance, July 14, 2014, “Obamacare repeal will swell ranks of self-pay patients, cut revenue for hospitals, report says,” by Beth Jones Sanborn, http://www.healthcarefinancenews.com/news/obamacare-repeal-will-swell-ranks-self-pay-patients-cut-revenue-hospitals-report-says
- Medical Economics, July 25, 2017, “Simple tips to rein in rising consumer collection costs,” by Stuart Hanson, http://medicaleconomics.modernmedicine.com/medical-economics/news/simple-tips-rein-rising-consumer-collection-costs
- Healthcare Finance, July 19, 2017, “Practice management tools fail to provide consistent experience in all practice sizes, KLAS report says,” by Beth Jones Sanborn, http://www.healthcarefinancenews.com/news/practice-management-tools-fail-provide-consistent-experience-all-practice-sizes-klas-report
- Physicians Practice, October 15, 2014, “Five Ways to Improve Patient Collections,” by Lucien W. Roberts, http://www.physicianspractice.com/medical-billing-collections/five-ways-improve-patient-collections
- Revenue Cycle Intelligence, July 5, 2017, “3 Pain Points Affecting Small Practice Healthcare Revenue Cycle,” By Jacqueline Belliveau, https://revcycleintelligence.com/news/3-pain-points-affecting-small-practice-healthcare-revenue-cycle