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Confirming address information during various encounters with patients limits the likelihood that they will fall behind on payments.

How can patients be expected to pay their bills if they never receive statements?

It’s a simple question with an obvious answer, yet providers struggle to find solutions to this issue every day. The fact is, it’s challenging to maintain accurate addresses for patients. Statements that are mailed to wrong, incomplete, or otherwise flawed addresses will most likely be returned, leaving the sender (the provider) to figure out next steps to find intended recipients.

The management of patient addresses and undeliverable mail is an important aspect of PATIENT FRIENDLY BILLING®. It’s imperative that patients who are expected to pay get their statements in a timely fashion to avoid further, more complicated collections efforts. Yes, address maintenance is a two-way street, and patients should supply complete, current addresses. However, the reality is that mistakes happen, people move, and the onus falls to providers to ensure statements reach patients so they are fully informed of financial obligations.

The following strategies can ensure effective address collection and return mail management that benefits patients by sending prompt, friendly billing information that encourages timely payment. 

Focus Collections Efforts on Addresses

To collect the most accurate, complete addresses possible, it is imperative to make address acquisition a true priority from appointment booking to discharge. Many providers already do this to a certain degree, but there is often room for more targeted measures. Ask patients to state addresses in full when they call in to book appointments. Other strategies to ensure accurate patient address information include the following.

Add prompts to forms (printed and online) to encourage complete address submission. For example, spaces labeled for apartment numbers, street suffixes (e.g., Road, Lane, Street), directional suffixes, and the plus-four numbers on zip codes increase the likelihood that patients won’t skip important address information. Train staff to immediately ask for corrections and clarifications if address elements are missing or illegible on forms submitted.

Confirm addresses throughout patient encounters. Don’t stop at registration; make address confirmation part of your patient communications at every point possible.

Trust but Verify

Direct address collection is subject to human error, so always verify. Use automated tools to scrub mailing addresses with deeper data (i.e., matching to birth date and Social Security Number), verifying that all patient information is correct. If errors are detected, these automated tools can correct and update your files seamlessly so that you always have the most current information on the ready and that significantly fewer pieces of mail go out only to be returned.

Outsource Return Mail Management

Don’t let undeliverable mail pile up and gather dust waiting for your staff to find time to manually sift through and skip trace. Consider handing and over return mail handling to an outsourced service provider that can receive your undeliverable mail, process it, automatically manage the skip-tracing process, update any address corrections identified, and resend statements for you. In addition, such a provider can give you updated address files and may be able to supply custom-formatted files to revenue recovery partners on your behalf.

Addressing the issues of returned mail and address collection with targeted tactics and automated solutions will bring the kind of “returns” your organization strives for: improved patient satisfaction and increased collections.

Emdeon Return Mail Manager automates the tracing process for undeliverable mail. Emdeon receives the undeliverable mail, identifies new addresses, and remails the correspondence.

Publication Date: Wednesday, March 20, 2013