Is your patient payment system putting your practice at risk?
Did you know that in a recent survey quoted by physicianspractice.com, 61% of consumers said they would consider changing healthcare providers for a better payment experience?
Patient expectations when paying for healthcare have changed dramatically in the last decade and as they become more directly responsible for their healthcare expenses, they will expect a more retail-like experience where they are provided with clear information about what exactly they are buying, what it costs and various methods of payment.
It’s more important than ever for providers to create a smooth consumer journey if they want a thriving practice. It’s simply a fact that patients unhappy with their payment experience will look elsewhere for their healthcare. Therefore, healthcare practices that have worked hard to develop meaningful, long-term relationships with their patients now face the prospect of those relationships being upended by billing matters. Providers need to take advantage of every opportunity to raise patient satisfaction.
Organizations that are proactive about patient payments and deliver a convenient payment experience are in the best position to remain viable and continue to offer care to their communities.
Here are three tips to help improve patient satisfaction with payments:
Tip #1: Take advantage of face-to-face patient interactions
Almost all patients find it challenging to pay their healthcare bills. A major EHR vendor (that is known for servicing small to mid-size practices) found that, on average, 40% of their healthcare providers fail to collect over $30,000 a year from patients. Several steps can be taken while the patient is in the office to promote a smooth payment experience.
Create a clear financial policy and include it with all new patient registration materials. Designate a private space to discuss payment issues and questions.
Collect all copays and account balances during check-in. Not only is this cost-effective for the provider, but patients will also know precisely what part of their bill is being paid.
If possible, estimate the visit cost when the patient is making an appointment, so there is time to discuss payment options.
Before a provider sees the patient, confirm that the visit is in-network and/or has the necessary pre-authorization paperwork. If a patient wants to be seen out-of-network or without authorization, consider having the patient sign a document that acknowledges complete personal payment responsibility and scan it into the patient record.
Tip #2: Make payments convenient
Many older patients prefer to pay by check, while younger patients may not even have a checkbook. Catering to all modes and methods of payment ensures prompt revenue capture.
Most patient payments happen after-hours and from home. Easy-to-access payment methods, such as a website, are vital to keeping patient accounts receivable low. Try to minimize barriers to payment, such as extensive login requirements, to make payments even more straightforward.
Cater to the consumer mindset with different ways to pay. A medical revenue cycle company recently found that 20% of online payments are made through a mobile device, making tablet and phone displays relevant. Touchless payment options, such as Google Pay, are becoming increasingly popular as well.
Offer flexible payment arrangements, such as credit-card-on-file and payment plans. Payment plans can require little to no administrative maintenance, and many patients appreciate not having to remember to pay every month. • Offer flexible payment arrangements, such as credit-card-on-file and payment plans. Payment plans can require little to no administrative maintenance, and many patients appreciate not having to remember to pay every month.
Tip #3: Avoid posting errors and delays
Misplaced payments cause a lot of anxiety for patients and can create sky-high labor costs. Streamline workflows as much as possible to minimize errors that can undermine patients’ overall confidence in your healthcare organization.
Automate patient payments as much as possible to minimize human error. Try to use payment systems that integrate with your software.
Posting patient payments should be a high priority and ideally done within 24 hours of receipt. If your practice automatically forwards overdue accounts to a collections agency, consider putting a process in place for accounts that are paid after they have been sent to collections so that the process can be stopped immediately.
Any conversations with patients about payments need to be noted in the patient record. If payment is made over the phone, be sure to note the transaction number. Also, create protocols for exceptions (for example, a patient is unable to pay until a specific date due to illness). These cases should be escalated to a manager that can reset the patient account accordingly.
The most important thing to remember when working with patients is that the vast majority appreciate the care you have provided and want to pay their bills. If your interactions with patients always begin with a positive mindset, you are most likely to collect payment and keep your patients happy with the payment process and your organization.