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It wasn’t that long ago when third-party payments were the dominant force in the way healthcare providers were paid. Things have changed at a rapid pace, and we’re now well into the new norm of high-deductible health plans (HDHPs). With 44 percent of employers reporting in PwC’s 2013 Touchstone survey that they are likely to only offer HDHPs in 2014, patients will continue to bear more responsibility for the payment of their care.
That means providers need to work smarter, not harder, to collect those patient payments to stay afloat. While there are many ways to reduce bad debt, such as making follow-up calls to patients with past-due balances, one efficient and economical approach is to simply send a more readable bill. If patients are confused about their statements, they’re more likely to pick up the phone with questions than pick up their checkbook to pay the bill.
In several focus groups conducted earlier this year, patients participating in three fully blinded sessions across a range of demographics shared their feedback. The goal was to determine what does and does not work in patient statements and use this research to improve statement design. Patients shared the following feedback.
Billing statements affect patient opinions and satisfaction. In each group, one or more participants stated that they believed insurance providers’ information about care encounters to be more reliable than information from their healthcare providers. The patients expressed frustration when hospitals send bills that are unclear, and they reported concerns about discrepancies between statements and explanation-of-benefit documents, noting that mismatched information generates the need for calls and inquiries to gain clarification.
Details are important to patients. The focus groups revealed that simplicity of information in billing statements does not equate to the exclusion of details. Participants resoundingly stated that they need billing details that are presented in a simple fashion and stated clearly. If they don’t have the itemization of services or other details, they wait to receive all the information they require before making payment. Many participants said they clarified their charges by calling their provider.
The core strategy revealed through the study is to “focus on clarity of information.” Clarity is not the exclusion of details, but rather it is the clear, concise, and logical conveyance of complete information.
Well-designed statement summaries can be effective tools. After reviewing a series of statements intentionally designed to improve clarity of information, participants responded with top-of-mind thoughts. These reactions were dramatically more positive in comparison to cluttered statements that were only printed in black and white.
Provide a summary page and itemized details. Patients responded positively to billing statements that provided both summary pages and itemized details. Effective summary pages highlight the key points: amount owed, date due, and where/how to send payment. Account detail pages offer descriptive line items to document all aspects of care, serving as useful explanation of the account summary page.
As patients take on more of the financial responsibility for their healthcare expenses, revenue cycle leaders can make the payment process easier for patients by providing clearly defined statements and summary pages. Removing barriers to understanding hospital financial communications improves patients’ overall opinion of the provider and enhances patient satisfaction.
Emdeon assists providers in creating clear, concise patient statements that result in effective patient communications.
Publication Date: Monday, November 18, 2013
Tom Myers, chief strategy officer, The SSI Group, discusses the shifting payment environment and how it affects providers' patient access and claims management processes.
Jeff Chester, senior vice president and chief revenue officer at Availity, shares his thoughts on "Revenue Cycle 2.0" and how to best meet its challenges.
Mitch Morris, vice chair and global leader, healthcare, Deloitte, and Michael O'Rourke, senior vice president and chief information officer, Catholic Health Initiatives (CHI), share perspectives on the need for transformational IT in health care today.
Brian Kueppers, founder and CEO, Apex, discusses the importance of a robust patient payment strategy in boosting organization revenue and enhancing patient satisfaction.
Brian Grazzini, CFO, HealthPort, describes the importance of efficient and compliant information exchange and audit management in helping HIM staff spend less time on paperwork and more on mission-critical projects.
Cindy Matthews, executive vice president, Community Hospital Corporation, discusses how rural and community hospitals can use collaborative partnering to position for success through tough market conditions.
Rick Heise, senior vice president, revenue cycle, at Cerner Corporation, discusses the importance of integrating clinical and financial data to excel in health care’s changing payment environment.
Russ Graney, founder and CEO for Aidin, and John Laursen, head of business development for Aidin, share insights on how to improve care transitions between acute and post-acute care settings and incentivize high-quality patient outcomes.
Scott Elston, strategic accounts manager, GE Healthcare Services, describes how substantial cost reduction in health care requires rethinking business strategy and asset use.
Robert Williams, MD, director, Deloitte Consulting LLP, and Arielle Freiberger, product strategist, ConvergeHEALTH by Deloitte, explain how sophisticated retrospective, real-time, and predictive data analytics can inform decision making to reduce costs and improve care.
Stuart Hanson, director of business development (healthcare solutions) at Citi Retail Services, discusses how improving the payment experience can benefit consumers and healthcare providers.
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