For too long, there have been no accepted, consistent practices across the industry for communications with patients about financial issues. That changes right now.
A few weeks ago at the 2013 MAP Event in Ft. Lauderdale, Fla., I had the honor of joining former U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services Donna Shalala to announce the launch of the Patient Financial Communications Best Practices. These best practices provide concrete steps for how healthcare organizations should communicate with patients about their financial responsibilities. They show appropriate patient financial communications in several settings—before service, in the emergency department, and in other care settings—and call for annual staff training around patient access, financial counseling, and financial customer service. I’m excited about the potential for these new guidelines to improve the consistency and effectiveness of this critical function across the healthcare industry.
I’m also convinced that they couldn’t have come at a better time. With the advent of the Affordable Care Act and other changes to the insurance marketplace, and with more people signing up for high-deductible health plans, consumers more than ever need clear information about their financial responsibilities. The best practices provide a path for conveying that information.
Better still, HFMA will recognize organizations that put these practices into action. Starting immediately, healthcare organizations have the opportunity to demonstrate their commitment to these new best practices by self-identifying as adopters through our Adopter recognition program. Through a self-evaluation process, organizations determine which practices they have successfully implemented and which areas they are still working to implement. HFMA will publicly recognize organizations that successfully complete this process. Beginning in 2014, HFMA will launch a more extensive recognition program that involves external verification that organizations have mastered the best practices.
The aim of this effort is to provide our members with powerful new tools for improving financial communications in a meaningful way, and for meeting the challenges our industry faces.
The best practices were developed over the past year by a blue-ribbon panel of healthcare stakeholders from across the industry that included representatives from health systems, physicians, payers, and patient advocates. The panel was advised by a bipartisan team of policy leaders and practitioners including HHS Secretaries Donna Shalala and Michael Leavitt, U.S. Senate leaders Bill Frist and Tom Daschle, and Clinton Administration Deputy Attorney General Jamie Gorelick.
Speaking at our launch event in Florida, Secretary Shalala said, “There’s never been a more important time in our history for very clear communication between healthcare professionals and our patients.” I couldn’t have said it better myself. We are now at a crossroads in so many ways. It is up to us—and our organizations—to lead the change that is coming. These new best practices give us the tools to do exactly that.
I encourage you to go to hfma.org/communications to learn more. I also encourage you to explore the best practices, and to apply for our recognition program to show your commitment to excellence in patient financial communications.
From the President's Desk
Joe Fifer expands on the ideas in his December column.
Publication Date: Monday, December 02, 2013