Of all the concerns most practices face every day, communicating and ensuring an understanding of patient responsibility is one of the most important—and probably one of the most overlooked on the long list of practice priorities.
Many practices rely primarily on insurance and Medicare/Medicaid payments to cover the majority of costs, but that mindset will need to change in light of recent changes in the healthcare industry. Below are 3 small steps that your practice can take to help improve your bottom line by making the best of increased patient responsibility—in ways that will also help your patients.
This seems like such a simple concept, that practice staff and health providers should communicate with their patients regarding patient payments. Sadly, a 2018 report by InstaMed indicated that 72 percent of patients didn’t know their financial responsibilities during their provider visit. The simple act of communicating with patients can make a huge difference on bad debt for any practice. Patients, like the rest of us, ultimately want to meet their financial obligations, but they cannot be expected to do so if those financial responsibilities are not clearly explained to them.
Flexible Payment Options.
With an increase in out-of-pocket costs to the average patient and an increase in co-pays and deductibles across the board, practices will need to consider some new strategies for handling patient responsibilities. Several revenue cycle management options exist, including updating your record keeping and payment systems to allow for more efficient patient responsibility management. The bottom line: your practice needs to allow patients to pay via card, via cash, via check, via online payment, via phone, etc. The easier you can make it, the better. Accept that payment plans may be necessary in the near future for self-pay patients or for those with higher deductible costs for certain procedures.
Regular, Consistent Follow-up.
Just as follow-up is necessary with insurance claims, regular follow-up is essential with patients who have extended financial responsibilities. Patient payments, if understood up front, will mostly be forthcoming, but regular calls to those 30, 60, and 90 days behind are necessary to prompt patients into meeting their obligations. This is the case with any business office, but many healthcare practices simply don’t place as much priority on this part of the process. If you want to reduce your bad debt and ensure that patient payments are being met, assigning someone to work on past due accounts at least once a day would be the smartest first step.
Relying primarily on insurance payout and claims will be a thing of the past very soon, so get your practice moving in the right direction now by adopting a proactive approach to patient responsibilities. With current technological advances, this can be easier than ever if your practice has a patient portal and email addresses on file. Simple steps can help improve your patients’ understanding of their financial responsibilities and ensure easy options for making those payments on time.