When patients don’t pay, someone else does, which contributes to increased healthcare costs that affect the entire patient population. The importance of a healthcare organization getting paid isn’t just for the benefit of the institution, but also for the health of all patients. The best time to collect payments is at the time of service, but given the complexities of medical coding and payer policies, the reality for most practices is that post-visit collections are the norm. Practices have several options to make sure they get paid after the patient is returned to the outside world following a visit.
The longer a balance remains outstanding, the more likely it is to stay outstanding. Maximize the number of accounts resolved by putting systems in place to make it easy for the patient to transfer funds as soon as possible, such as with emailed statements that link to online bill pay or by charging a payment card that has been kept on file.
Offer Payment Plans
If patients can’t pay the full balance in one transaction, there are better options than just hoping they will suddenly be able to afford a lump sum payment in a few weeks. If an organization is serious about maximizing its collections, it should accept the responsibility to be proactive in removing barriers to payment. The full balance may not be collected at the patient visit, but a partial payment very well could be. The patient visit is also the best time to communicate with the patient, and to agree to a payment plan right there and then.
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Use the Best Technology
It is essential for healthcare organizations to invest in high-quality technology if the goal is to remove barriers to payment collection from patients. Consumers care about security and convenience, and the only way to meet those needs today is to maintain up-to-date IT infrastructure. Patient portals have the potential to improve patient-provider communication and make daily activities more efficient for staff, but only if the software is well chosen and properly maintained. In order to accept a wide variety of payment methods, secure technology is a must. Be sure to stay on top of security trends such as tokenization and encryption.
Accept Online Payments
Consumers have grown accustomed to having multiple payment options to choose from, and want a simple way to pay online. When selecting a high-quality technology to process payments, ensure it provides consumers with options to meet their needs. Most patients do not want to pay through a physical check, and consumers are increasingly gravitating toward storing payment information with trusted institutions and utilizing digital wallets.
Make Statements Understandable
A 2017 InstaMed report found that more than 70 percent of patients are confused by medical billing statements and insurance policies. Provide better customer service, and also decrease the likelihood of bad debt, by writing statements in plain English and including definitions of common terms. Provide contact information for whom to contact for billing questions. The statement also shouldn’t be a surprise to the patient. When possible, discuss the patient’s likely financial responsibility in advance by making use of an estimate calculator. Communicate to the patient what types of charges they should expect, and when.
When a strategic vision for post-visit collections is implemented, healthcare providers can rest assured that their hopes of getting paid don’t go out the door along with the patient.