Tagged in healthcare providers


7 Tips for More Effective Self-Pay Payments Management

April 13, 2018


As healthcare costs rise, more patients are shouldering increased self-pay responsibility, including higher deductibles, premiums, and copays. This rise in the number of self-pay payments has become a major concern for providers and physicians as self-pay patients default at a rate of 30% or more. Optimizing your revenue cycle management to include a more strategic, proactive focus on addressing self-pay payments can help reduce your overall bad debt and reduce costs associated with collections or write offs. Here’s seven tips to get you started:

  1. Focus on pre-service initiatives

Pre-service is the easiest and most cost-effective time to collect patient information and identify alternative payment sources. Always verify patient information upon check-in. Even if information was verified when scheduling the appointment, patient information changes rapidly. Without the proper information in your system, payment follow-up becomes much more difficult and costly to manage.

Asking the right questions in the pre-registration process can help you screen for patients eligible for charity care, which many patients don’t know about. Investments in eligibility verification can help further identify insurance coverage like Medicaid and Medicare that patients may not be aware they qualify for, reducing their self-pay balance.

  1. Revisit your patient communications

Revising your patient communications—both service and bill reminders—so they’re easier for patients to understand the charges and when payment is due can increase the likelihood of payment. Keep in mind: there have been nearly 20 million people newly insured since 2010. Many of these have had limited access to healthcare previously, so they’re unfamiliar with the terminology and payment process. 

  1. Consider billing and payment consolidation

When applicable for their facility, more providers are offering consolidated bills that capture services performed by the lab, the physician, and the hospital on one statement. Giving all service and payment info at once increases understanding of what’s owed and makes repayment easier for patients and their families to track and budget for.

  1. Take a page from the retail industry

Retailers are highly consumer-focused, bringing in technologies and processes that consumers crave and appreciate. Healthcare providers can do the same. Accepting online payments makes repayment more convenient than trying to find their checkbook and a stamp. Giving patients online portals where they can access all their lab, physician, and hospital records—as well as their statements and payment history—in one place can make the self-pay patient feel more empowered. 

  1. Make pre-service estimates a priority

Nine in ten consumers want to know payment responsibility upfront. Medical costs can often surprise patients, especially as costs to serve and insurance eligibility fluctuates. To bolster the effectiveness, you can also offer the patient a payment schedule in advance with the estimate. When they know what they’ll be expected to pay and when, the patient can plan ahead and ensure they have the proper funds available when the bill comes due.

  1. Look into service deposits

If you make the switch to pre-service estimates, you may also want to consider a deposit program. Requiring a 25-50% deposit before point-of-service encourages patients to keep their appointments and lessens the repayment burden afterwards. It can also help offset the financial strain your practice feels when 100% of the bill goes unpaid.

  1. Send past due accounts to collections

Recovering self-pay balances without tarnishing the patient relationship requires specific expertise most billing departments don’t have. Collection agencies are trained to identify alternative sources for payment and can dedicate the time to educating the patient on their bill, increasing the likelihood of payment to your facility next time. By outsourcing self-pay collections early (0-90 days), the collection agency can reach out to the patient in your name (commonly called first-party recovery) for a soft-touch collections call.

Managing your self-pay payments boils down to better communication and more proactive engagement with your patients. The easier you can make the repayment process and the clearer you can be when notifying patients of services and costs will help increase the likelihood of on-time repayment.


5 Patient Engagement Tools that Increase Loyalty

February 23, 2018


Today’s patients want to feel more in control of their healthcare decisions, and patient engagement tools can help them achieve it. While these tools are designed for patients, they hold big benefits for providers, too. They make it easier to coordinate care and can even increase direct communication with physicians. Patients who actively participate in their care and repayment are less likely to go delinquent and often exhibit cost-saving behaviors like taking advantage of preventative care.

There’s plenty of patient engagement tools you can choose from, but these six are the most sought after by patients and the most beneficial to healthcare providers in the long-term.

  1. Personalized emails

Emails are an incredibly underutilized form of patient-provider communication, according to a recent survey that reported only 68% of providers use email. Emailing your patients not only helps nurture stronger relationships with your facility, but it keeps your patients’ healthcare at the top of their minds. Upcoming appointments and due date reminders are standard uses for email, but you can also think bigger by using them to advertise related service offerings or share educational material.

  1. Remote patient monitoring

Patients love the option of using mobile devices at home to take routine health tests or track a medical condition. It’s far more convenient than an in-person assessment and often less stressful for patients. For those patients with high-deductible plans, having an at-home option can sometimes save them money. Physicians like them because the convenience and other benefits for the patient increases the likelihood of completing the test and receiving proper treatment. 

  1. Telemedicine

Like remote patient monitoring, telemedicine is a matter of convenience. When patients can’t make it into the office, they can still have that valuable face-to-face experience. The 24/7 access is a bonus for both healthcare companies and patients. Rather than a pricey visit to the emergency room or urgent care, patients can find cost-effective treatment for common or minor health concerns like colds, the flu, and allergies day or night.

  1. Integrated patient portals

In healthcare, engagement really boils down to access. Studies have shown that patients (as much as 41%) would consider switching providers if it allowed them more complete access to their medical records. When records from specialists, labs, and physicians within the same system can be integrated, it ensures a higher quality of care for individuals across the board. Patients enjoy the freedom of not having to remember all the details of their medical and treatment history. Meanwhile, specialists and physicians can feel more confident in their treatment plans because they have all the information accurately displayed at their fingertips rather than relying on what patients decide or remember to relay.

  1. After-care surveys

As interest in patient engagement tools increase, so does measuring the patient experience. It’s important to capture your facility’s strengths and weakness when it comes to both treatment and customer service. After-care surveys—which can be easily outsourced to reputable, HIPAA-compliant call centers—are another avenue to collect these essential statistics to make your care even better and ensure your patients continue to choose your over the competition.

At their core, patient engagement tools are designed to shape meaningful relationships between patients and their healthcare providers. The more convenience and value providers can demonstrate to patients, the more likely they are to retain those patients and perhaps even attract their families and friends.


Hot Topics on Healthcare Leaders’ Minds at HFMA Western Symposium

February 6, 2018


I recently rejoined the Windham Professionals team (I just can’t get enough of them) and started out by attending one of my favorite healthcare shows: the Healthcare Financial Management Association’s (HFMA’s) Western Region Symposium. Celebrating its twentieth year, the symposium brought healthcare education to Las Vegas this January and featured a great lineup of speakers and sessions covering topics from patient engagement to revenue cycle management and strengthening leadership.

My most interesting conversations, though, occurred off the exhibit floors and beyond the session walls as I sat down with some old and new friends to digest what we’d heard and learned over a good meal.

These three areas stood out to me as being major concerns for healthcare leaders:

  1. Allowing more patients to pay online or by using secure apps

Flexibility and convenience in payment options was of particular concern to one Vice President of Revenue Cycle for a large children’s hospital. Patient demand for online and mobile-friendly payment channels will only gain momentum as younger generations like millennials and Generation Z start managing their own healthcare plans. These increasingly important demographics don’t want to call in to you or write a check. They want easy repayment that’s convenient for their busy lives.

Up-front investments in technology, testing, additional staff, and informing patients of these services present some challenges for providers. However, delivering a more positive patient experience could help retain existing patients while the convenience of these technologies attracts new ones.

  1. Discovering costs and insurance prior to the visit

Tracking down patient insurance after the appointment is a major headache for providers. It’s a drain on resources and takes time away from other important business and patient care tasks. Designing front-end processes that accurately capture insurance information (primary, secondary, and tertiary) beforehand can help reduce financial strain from the outset.

With less insurance follow up to do, providers may find themselves better able to focus collections resources on recovering self-pay balances earlier in the cycle. Discussing deductibles, costs, payment options, and possible charity care eligibility ahead of the appointment are other ways that providers can help themselves reduce revenue cycle issues and increase patient satisfaction.

  1. Tackling patient-friendly billing/statements

Combing hospital charges along with physician charges would be a major win for patients. Self-pay and high-deductible healthcare options are on the rise. Receiving multiple (and often complicated) statements can compound patient confusion and overwhelm them. That confusion can often generate more calls to customer support to resolve. In some cases, the patients might put them on the backburner and deal with them later.

Simpler, combined statements can make managing repayment and tracking insurance usage much easier on the patient. Physician groups and healthcare facilities would also likely have an easier time managing receivables and maybe even prevent some write-offs and diminished returns via a lengthy collections cycle.

Overall, our discussion was patient-focused, as any healthcare conversation should be. Providers are keen on finding more ways to make healthcare easier and more convenient for patients. Assisting patients in these three key ways could help providers spend less time tracking down repayments and more time focusing on high-quality patient contact and care.