If you were to look at a list of the top causes of stress in life, health and finances are always near the top. While making patients healthier has always been a priority in the healthcare industry, ensuring clarity when it comes to patient payments has not. However, in today's value-based world, the patient's financial responsibility for services has increased, and that portion of payment is key to the profitability of your outpatient facility. So if you want to achieve a healthy revenue cycle, you should strive to provide a positive patient experience when it comes to both their care and their cash.
How? It's all about communication and timing. Most patients are familiar with having a co-pay for healthcare services, but it is becoming more common that they will be responsible for additional payment. How and when that information is communicated can have a significant impact on the patient experience – and on your revenue cycle.
Far too often, the first time patients see how much they owe is when they receive a statement from the provider upon completion of services. The stress of not knowing what is due – or worse, a surprise charge – lends itself to a poor experience, even if their care and outcome were optimal. Communicate financial expectations up front as often as possible. Take the time to speak with patients about their benefits, what is and isn't covered, and what they can expect to be responsible for financially. By providing a range of what their bill is likely to be, you can help to mitigate anxiety and a negative impact on their overall care experience.
Additionally, the bill should be in a format that is clear, succinct and accurate. In a recent survey, only 29 percent of patients seen in one hospital were satisfied with their bill; they did not necessarily agree with the amount being charged, but felt the information was accurate to some degree. That means 71 percent of the patients did not feel that the bill was accurate or valid in some way. If a patient can't understand their bill, they're likely to delay payment or not pay at all, which adversely impacts the revenue cycle.
You might typically manage accounts receivable days on the payer side, but closely managing your patient AR is also important to a healthy revenue cycle. Make it a goal to try to always collect payment from a patient before or during the time period that you're treating them. Once they're discharged from your care, the chance of recovering that money goes down exponentially, impacting AR.
We're all consumers, and as consumers we inherently scrutinize every invoice we get – whether it's the cable bill, the power bill, or a medical bill. And while you may consider patient payment just another reality of the changing healthcare landscape, try putting yourself in your patients' shoes for a minute and consider what might be going through their heads. By working to ease any shock and confusion surrounding payment, you can better the patient's experience, and the revenue cycle as well.
It's worth taking a few extra steps to ensure that your patients understand their financial responsibilities when it comes to your services. Providing information upfront, clear direction for payments, and resources for when they have billing questions goes a long way in creating more positive experiences for your patients and a healthier bottom line for your business.