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Offering Payment Plans That Work For Patients

As the prevalence of low cost, high-deductible health plans grow and patients take on increased financial responsibility for their medical needs, it’s becoming imperative for practices to find innovative ways to collect patient payments.  The trend towards decreased Payer payments and increased patient responsibility will grow as the Affordable Care Act continues on its road to reform. As practices begin to depend more on patients for their revenue streams, they will need to accommodate patient financial needs by providing payment plan options.And patients are feeling the heat of this increased responsibility. According to an InstaMed  2012 Trends in Healthcare Payments Annual report, “In 2011, 63 percent of patients said that if they had the option of paying their healthcare bills via a monthly payment plan, they would use this option, which increased to 71 percent in 2012.”

So How Do You Offer Payment Plans That Can Work For Your Patients?

1. Put Together an Automated Process

Trying to manually handle a payment plan process would be an absolute nightmare. With an automated process, the system will handle the payments and provide scheduled communications with the patient. But don’t get scared by the words “automated” or “system.” There are cost-effective, cloud-based payment plan programs like
PaymentCare that don’t require huge investments or an overhaul of technology. With automated programs, staff will be able to securely store payment information and set-up dates for recurring or installment payments.

2. Create Rules and Guidelines

Providing patients with payment options and flexibility can be a win-win for the practice and the patient, as long as there are rules and guidelines. Practices should pre-determine minimum monthly payments, a percentage up-front and other terms associated with establishing plans. Creating a printed document or downloadable brochure on a practice website outlining the customized payment plans rules can also be a great reference point. This type of structure actually helps patients plan financially and prioritize their healthcare payments.

3. Don’t Forget About Communication

This is the KEY to making payment plans work for patients. People have busy lives and regardless of how many papers they sign when authorizing automated payments, you will have to remind them. Automated communication is not only good for patient sentiment, but will also prevent chargebacks to the practice. With programs like
PaymentCare, you are able to automate email notifications within the program to be sent to patients before each payment is made.

4. Be Flexible Within Your Guidelines

Payment plans may often times make or break a patient’s decision to follow through with a recommended care plan. Once you have established customized payment plan rules specific to your practice, develop a few different options within those rules for patients to choose from. Maybe one option offers a lower up-front payment with larger installment payments, maybe another option allows for a larger up-front payment but a longer termed plan with lower payments. Whatever you do, try to fit the plan to the needs of the patient to ensure the success and follow through of the care plan and collections.

Used effectively, payment plans can be a great alternative to traditional financing options and can greatly increase patient follow through with their care plans. They can also level the playing field for practices looking to decrease write-offs and provide their patients with reasonable solutions to the cost of healthcare.

 

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