Healthcare costs, insurance premiums, and deductibles all continue a steep climb−often leaving patients unprepared to meet their financial obligations. The good news is that healthcare practices can take steps to help ensure they collect patient balances in a reliable manner.
Verify Eligibility Up Front
The hassle of manually verifying insurance eligibility can overwhelm front office staff with confusing billing codes and constant phone calls to insurance companies. That distracts them from the more essential role of interfacing with patients. But it’s critical to the collections process. Fortunately, there are payment processing systems that can verify insurance eligibility immediately and automatically. Patient insurance information is also securely stored in the system to eliminate redundant data entry in the future.
Exercise Full Payment Transparency
One of the main benefits of automated insurance eligibility is that providers can give patients an estimate of their total financial responsibility. That minimizes the risk that the patient will feel they were misled by a lack of pricing transparency. Before scheduling a procedure, the patient knows what they will need to pay, and can budget accordingly. Today’s consumer-minded patients select providers by scrutinizing pricing and service. So a policy of open transparency can distinguish a practice in positive ways, transforming it into one that is more attractive and competitive.
Share Comprehensive Treatment Plans
Another type of transparency, in the form of written and agreed-upon treatment plans, is very effective when it comes to collections. Without using a treatment plan, practitioners run the risk that the patient won’t pay because they feel ripped-off. They may even file lawsuits, claiming they were sold expensive treatments they didn’t need. But a signed treatment plan engages and empowers the patients with more control over their healthcare. They become more invested in their treatment, which encourages their sense of financial responsibility and nurtures valuable doctor/patient trust.
Offer Multiple Payment Options
Because patients are paying a greater share of their healthcare costs and thinking like consumers, they expect retail-style payment options. They want to manage their healthcare accounts online. They want to pay using their mobile devices and multiple forms of payment, and they expect electronic invoices and instantly-generated receipts. The more of these options a practice can give them, the easier it becomes to collect outstanding balances.
Accept Installment Payments
Patients frequently rely on credit cards to repay an expensive healthcare bill, by carrying a balance over a period of months. But many patients already carry high balances on their credit cards, so that’s not an option for them. If the provider offers them an installment plan, built into its own secure payment processing system, that solves the problem. It also helps the provider collect what’s owed. Instead of alienating the patient over a collection dispute, patient retention is increased and the practice’s brand is enhanced.
Provide Financial Incentives
Another approach that is gaining lots of traction lately is to offer patients prepaid discounts. The provider gives a discount to patients who pay up front, which guarantees payment while financially incentivizing patients. Or it can be done through monthly memberships or subscription programs that provide a variety of basic treatments for one affordably fixed fee. That makes practice revenues very predictable, while giving patients a lower priced option.