Jeff Wood“Price transparency remains maddeningly opaque,” states a recent Advisory Board article—an apt illustration of patients’ frustration as they navigate medical payments and adjust to their increasing financial responsibilities. The good news: A recent survey shows nearly one-third of healthcare executives are extremely interested in developing consumer-focused pricing strategies to help patients and increase self-pay collections. This willingness to make changes—especially if done strategically across all processes—can improve an organization’s cash flow and patient payment revenue along with patient engagement and satisfaction.

Incorporating services common in other industries, such as online bill pay and payment plans, into your patient payment strategy is important; however, healthcare organizations can and should go further. Now more than ever, patients can be confused about their financial responsibilities versus the insurers’, and they’ll likely come to your team with questions first.

The new best practice patient payment model places substantial emphasis on proactive communication and education while also encouraging payment. Patient bill estimation is an especially critical component because it lays the groundwork for key points of communication.

Next, provide an estimate. The importance of this step can’t be diminished, as patients, aren’t often aware of basic details such as their deductible and maximum out-of-pocket spending. Patient access teams should not become mired in lengthy discussions but should be equipped to offer information that helps patients understand what they owe and when they’re expected to pay.

Finally, discuss payment of balances. Staff can present multiple options including online bill pay and scheduled payment plans. If the latter is an option, staff should go a step further to securely store a credit or debit card to be automatically billed each month. This tactic offers convenience for patients while helping ensure their balances will be paid in full—with little to no additional work required by your team.

While redesigning front-end processes can significantly increase self-pay revenue, you’ll also want to round out your patient payment strategy by updating post-service collections, too. For example, leverage electronic statements to reduce operational costs and shorten the time required to send statements and receive payments. 

By leveraging the right processes, health systems can proactively communicate with patients, making bill payment easier and payment responsibilities more understandable.

Jeff Wood is the vice president of product management at Navicure. Twitter: @Jeff_J_Wood.

Publication Date: Wednesday, August 17, 2016