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Transform your statements into patient-friendly communications by following these tips from graphic designers.
Though they've always been "patient statements," the content and layout of those financial summaries were not always designed with the patients who received them in mind. Just ask Kim Cardell, a graphic designer, and Diane Clark, a graphics coordinator, both based in Toledo, Ohio, with more than 10 years of experience in patient statement creation. According to Cardell and Clark, the wording, style, and overall design of statements gone by were tailored more for the internal audience of providers and payers.
Those days are over.
Cardell and Clark report that today's statements are more intentional and less traditional in terms of design, reflecting an industry more in tune with its audience and ready for progressive approaches. Both designers now collaborate to create materials that are customized to reach patients who are more actively involved in the payment of their health care and, thus, need to understand their charges. In their experience, the PATIENT FRIENDLY BILLING® standards purveyed by HFMA in recent years have become more accepted as providers aim to better relate to patients.
See Sample Patient Statement
Here are a few practical, tactical design tips from Cardell, Clark, and their graphic design colleagues. Drawing upon their years of specializing in patient statement and medical form production, these pros have great ideas that can turn statements into meaningful patient communication tools.
Overall Approach to Design
- Bring in your brand. Abandon the traditional layout and look of past statements, and instead, use statements as opportunities to convey branding and personality that will appeal to your patients and help them quickly identify who issued the billing statement. Be sure to make your logo visible in the mail. You can increase open rates by placing your logo-a familiar visual for patients-in the return address window.
- Go custom and get colorful. The increased access to roll-fed, digital printing solutions makes colorful, custom designs more feasible and affordable. No longer must you buy reams of paper stock and print in bulk for cost efficiencies. Make the most of today's versatile printing capabilities that allow you to make adjustments as often as you'd like while eliminating the hassle of managing an inventory of preprinted stock.
- Bold text and increase font size for section headlines. To help readers easily identify different sections within your statement, bold headlines and make the text larger than the text below. Use sans serif fonts, such as Arial, for a fresh, modern design, and try to avoid underlining as a method for highlighting information-this tends to clutter your statement design.
- Use callout boxes and shading. Boxes and shading can visually separate information, making a patient's review of overall content more simple and succinct. Strategic use of color in shading can draw attention to important information while ensuring that the material is still readable.
- Soften the design with subtle touches. Rounded corners on callout boxes, a pleasing color palette, and positive graphic elements can give a statement a more appealing appearance and approachable feel.
Placement of Key Information and Visual Elements
- Place key information front and center. Lead with the most important information. Always place the amount due and the due date on the first page of the statement, and use color to make this stand out from the rest of the statement. Include both pieces of information on the main section of the statement and on the statement coupon, too.
- List payment options prominently and often. Provide as many payment options as possible to help accelerate payment, and list these prominently on the front page. If possible, add this information to subsequent pages, as well. For online payments, be sure to list the web address, and for pay-by-phone options, include the telephone number for reference. For credit card payments by mail, ensure this information can be provided within the statement coupon.
- Don't overwhelm patients with information. Provide the appropriate amount of information for patients to make informed decisions about their financial responsibilities, but don't include unnecessary information, such as billing codes or medical jargon. Ask yourself, "Is this necessary to include on the statement? If yes, does this clearly communicate the information?"
- List date on the stub. Include the statement date on the stub to streamline payment processing when it is returned with payment.
- Provide contact information on each page. Place contact information on every page of the statement (not on perforated portions that will be removed) so patients always have quick access to your billing department's phone number and mailing and e-mail addresses.
- Make your logo visible in the mail. Place your logo-a familiar visual for patients-in the return address window as a way to increase open rates.
- Guide patients to offer updated information. Give prominence to areas where patients can update personal and insurance information. Capturing fresh information is vital to the collections process, so use the statement as an opportunity to prompt patients to list new information.
- Include FAQs. Providing answers to your most commonly fielded questions will help patients find the information they need while minimizing customer service call volume.
- Provide online resources. Use your patient statement as an opportunity to direct traffic to online resources. Encouraging patients to visit your hospital's website for billing-related information may also increase adoption of online payment.
- Include a Spanish customer service option. For Spanish-speaking patients with questions about their bill, include a brief statement in Spanish that lists the contact information for your billing department.
Automation, Organization, and Communication
- Use 2D tags and bar codes. Using scannable bar codes can help automate outbound sorting and mailing processes, verify data, and track what version of the statement design is in use, as well as denote the number of pages that should be included in a statement.
- Leverage scan lines to automate payment collection. Automating the process of depositing, posting, and managing patient payments received through the mail can help you get paid faster and cut costs. If your organization uses a lockbox for payments received through the mail, ensure your scan line is placed in an area away from the perforation line to avoid unnecessary tears or rips to this important piece of information.
- Include wellness tips and additional messaging. When possible, use the statement to share announcements, offer wellness reminders, or convey pertinent information about your institution to make the statement more meaningful and useful to recipients.
- Test, test, test. When making changes to your statement coupon, ensure that your updated coupon design can be scanned and processed by your lockbox.
Make a positive statement about your commitment to patient-friendly billing practices. Call 877.EMDEON.6 (877.363.3666), or visit us online to discover how Emdeon Patient Communications can provide companion print and mail services to keep your patients informed.
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Publication Date: Thursday, March 10, 2011