Taking the Pain Out Of Patient Collections
Collecting patients’ portion of their medical financial responsibility can be one of the biggest drains on a practice’s resources. The prevalence of high-deductible health care insurance plans — which put more financial responsibility on patients and less on insurers — is only adding to the pressure providers feel to collect out-of-pocket expenses. Whereas revenue used to come almost entirely from insurance reimbursement, a large portion now needs to be collected directly from patients. This means that providers must work to collect the maximum amount of patient responsibility possible in order to ensure the ongoing health of their practices. In fact, a McKinsey and Company study found that providers expect to collect no more than 70% of a patient’s unpaid balance on average; in 2010, this equated to $65B in unpaid medical debt.
Making changes upfront to help smooth the collections cycle at the backend.
There are a number of best practices that may be implemented as part of revenue cycle management that can help ensure that a practice is collecting patient financial responsibility in a way that doesn’t additionally burden staff while making the process easier and less stressful for patients. Here are three of our top recommendations:
- Electronic payment options are no longer just a nice thing to offer. They are a necessity. Allowing patients to pay online, at their convenience, both frees up office staff and empowers patients to take responsibility for their debt. This is one reason why practices are implementing patient portals. It allows patients to find the information they need, pay bills, send direct messages, and get access to lab test results, all without picking up the phone.
- Keep bills simple. In this day and age, there is no reason at all to make bills any more complicated than they need to be. Overwhelming patients with more information than they need is the easiest way to make them put down a bill and not pick it back up for a month (or more). Clearly, list procedures and specify patient responsibility (amount owed) vs. what was billed and covered by their insurance plan, and give them an easy way to pay, preferably without having to even log in to an account. This can often be accomplished by using an invoice number with a payment processor to identify the patient.
- Educate, educate, educate. Taking the time to educate patients during the scheduling and intake process can cut down on friction when it comes time to pay. Because for decades insurance paid for the vast majority of expenses, they may be truly unaware of their financial responsibility. Giving front-end RCM personnel the tools and training to educate patients on what their insurance does and does not cover, including copays and coinsurance, and being transparent about treatment and procedure pricing, can go a long way toward building patient trust and ensuring that they aren’t confused and overwhelmed once their insurance is processed, and they finally see their bill.
While there are steps that can be taken to help ensure the maximum patient responsibility is eventually collected, there are still financial gaps that occur in even the most efficient practices. This is why many have chosen to integrate Aquina’s Via solution into their claims processing system. Via allows insurance claim reimbursements to be expedited, so even when patients are slow to pay, a practice’s bottom line can remain healthy. With integration already in place with leading EHR providers such as athenahealth and Kareo, getting started is easy. Contact Aquina Health today and find out how.