Column | Patient Financial Communications

Imagining a More Consumer-Centric Approach to Patient Financial Communications

Column | Patient Financial Communications

Imagining a More Consumer-Centric Approach to Patient Financial Communications

HFMA, the AHA, and AHIP have developed a guide for healthcare consumers designed to help them know how to avoid surprise out-of-network medical bills; healthcare organizations are encouraged to share the guide with their patients.

Have you heard about the new HFMA resource? It aims to take the “surprise” out of medical bills.

Throughout my career in healthcare finance, I have been privileged to witness and be a part of countless innovations that advanced our industry and improved patient care. During my time at Geisinger, such innovations included creating cutting-edge medical homes that changed the way we delivered care to those suffering with multiple chronic conditions and enhancing our integrated delivery system roots, all while managing cost, quality, and the financing of care. To say I am proud of these accomplishments would be an understatement. Some of the most gratifying, however, were innovations that truly improved our patients’ experience, such as patient-friendly billing practices, price quotes in advance of treatment, and refunds for service failures.

Many of you have similar success stories. Our collective efforts to advance consumerism in health care benefit both our patients and the industry overall. And while we’ve made tremendous strides in this area, one aspect continues to be a challenge–surprise medical bills.

To help us tackle this challenge, HFMA recently released a new tool, Avoiding Surprises in Your Medical Bills: A Guide for Consumers. Developed jointly by HFMA, the American Hospital Association, and America’s Health Insurance Plans, with input from the American Medical Association, the guide is designed to help consumers understand steps they can take to reduce the chance of receiving an unexpected out-of-network medical bill. As a supplement to information consumers may receive from hospitals, physicians, and health plans, the guide offers tips for situations where care is scheduled in advance as well as for emergencies. It also provides examples of steps consumers can take to avoid surprise bills in some of the most common scenarios.

HFMA is encouraging organizations to include the new resource in pre-procedure communications with patients and to post it on their websites. The guide is available in both English and Spanish and can be downloaded at And while you’re there, check out the report from HFMA’s Price Transparency Task Force and the companion patient guide, Understanding Healthcare Prices. If you’re joining me in imagining a tomorrow that includes a more consumer-centric approach to patient financial communications, you’ll want to have all three of these resources that provide tactics to help ensure your patients know what to expect up front.

Surprise medical bills are the epitome of adding insult to injury. Let’s all commit to making sure they are nowhere to be found in our better tomorrow.

About the Author

Kevin Brennan, FHFMA, CPA,

is HFMA's 2018-19 National Chair.

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