Patient collections can be intimidating for anyone, and for a good reason. Patient financial responsibility has changed a lot over the last decade, and patients have become increasingly overwhelmed by rising care costs, including higher deductibles, increased out of pocket expenses and expensive medical bills.
The burden of expensive medical bill payments continues to fall on the patient. NPR found that 1 in 5 patients depleted their savings to pay a medical bill in the last year and over half of Americans (54%) report delaying care due to cost. Because of this reality, providers must adjust their collections practices to reflect the new demands of the healthcare industry to avoid struggling with cash flow targets.
Importance of Patient Collections
Streamlining patient payment options will help to increase patient collection rates at your medical practice.
An effective collections process is built on transparency which is crucial to the success of your medical practice. According to TransUnion, 92% of healthcare consumers want to know payment responsibility before a provider visit and 81% of healthcare practices admit having difficulty providing this information. Ultimately, this will help to increase patient satisfaction and drive greater loyalty.
The Hurdles of Patient Collections
Quickening the payment cycle is a pain point shared by medical practices of all sizes that can prevent their ability to run efficiently. Patient collections present a challenge to healthcare providers as any delay in payments can affect cash flow and prevent a practice from running smoothly.
We live in a digital world, and if a healthcare provider is not willing to adapt, they will find themselves collecting less from their patients than what they are owed. In fact, over half of healthcare providers are still using old-fashioned paper statements as the primary method to collect payments. The percentage of payments that are owed by the patient decreases every day the bill is past due.
In this current healthcare climate, if a practice can’t produce cash flow from patient responsibility, they won’t be able to continue to treat patients. But how can providers adapt their patient collections to the current atmosphere?
9 Ways to Increase Patient Collections
Patient collections are key to practice efficiency, but it doesn’t have to be a hassle. Identifying areas of improvement in your collections method can help prevent errors further into the process. Establishing and adapting your practice’s policies can help improve cash flow and increase patient satisfaction. The following are ways to improve patient collections.
Collect copays and deductibles: Collecting copays during a patient’s visit ensures that you are getting cash flow from every patient. Your practice should clearly state this policy when a patient calls to make an appointment, as well as have the policy clearly outlined on any websites or documents you may have.
Build transparency with your patients: Patients are spending more on their healthcare services than in the past. Because of this, it’s crucial to communicate a patient’s financial responsibility before treatment is rendered. In fact, 81 percent of patients surveyed want and need to know how much their care will cost prior to services being rendered. Building more transparency into your process by providing accurate and easy upfront estimates about the cost of care allows people to better understand their financial responsibility and create a plan to pay those balances. As a result, you can build stronger relationships with patients and improve the success of your medical practice in the future.
Customize payment solutions: A personalized payment solution allows practices to capture more outstanding patient revenue. They are helping to close that gap by providing patients with flexible options that can be customized to meet individual needs. Affordable, transparent, and customized payment options are attractive to patients looking to simplify their financial management of care and help to improve your practice’s bottom line.
Stay in communication: It’s important to verify that your practice has the most up-to-date and accurate contact details, such as email and cell phone numbers on file for your patients. Confirming your patient’s preferred method of communication will help you to learn more about their needs and deliver on their demand. This will also allow you to communicate patient balances through the communication channel they prefer (such as via text or email) and to help to prevent issues related to patient balances in the future.
Offer patient-friendly payment options: Patients want more ways to pay their medical bills. Allow a variety of payment methods, including all major card brands and virtual checks from their checking or savings account. Accept payments online, via a smartphone (76 percent of people have smartphones) and in-person, so that the patient is empowered to pay their bill in full and on time. For patients that cannot afford their care, provide flexible financing options that work within their financial realities.
Staff training: Train all staff members to deal with all patient collections in the same manner. Consistent procedures will prevent any issues of giving incorrect information to patients. Additionally, ensure your staff is comfortable when talking about patient finances and asking for payment. This is because many patients are uncomfortable discussing their finances and might choose to pass on care that they cannot afford. Therefore, it is imperative for staff to initiate financial conversations so patients know they have payment plans and even financing options available based on their financial realities.
Auto-pay: Automated patient payment options help patients simplify paying bills and reduce the time spent on managing financial transactions. Americans already pay online, and people want the ease of paying bills, everything from their utility bill to their doctor’s copayment, faster. With safe and secure automated payments, you can safely store and use patient payment account details for balances owed after insurance adjudication.
Track patient collections: Adopt a software platform that benchmarks your practice’s performance to date against its overall goals. Tracking patient collections provides insightful analysis that will help determine the best patient engagement strategies to implement to grow your bottom line.
Incentive your staff: Save your employees’ time and remove stress by automating manual aspects of your patient financial experience. Give time in your staff’s day for them to focus on other valuable duties that are critical to the success of your practice.
Is your practice implementing all the tools in place to improve its cash flow? Placing an emphasis on your patients will help to drive revenue to your business by increasing their loyalty and satisfaction.
Written by Cleargage