Whether or not you believe the Affordable Care Act (ACA) has been a failure or a success, one thing is undeniable: Patient payments now make up a much larger percentage of most practice's revenue, thanks to high deductible health plans and steeper co-insurance amounts. In fact, in a recent study by InstaMed, nearly three-quarters (74%) reported a higher percentage of patient responsibility payments in their A/R.
That shift has added an element of consumerism to health care that didn't exist before, which may be a change for the better. But the fact remains that few practices today are prepared for the changes in terms of revenue cycle management. Specifically, today's practice managers need to refocus their efforts on point of service collections to ensure a healthy revenue stream.
Here are three ways to revamp your point of service policies for more robust patient collections.
Make price transparency a priority
Health care consumers are like any other consumers—they don't like unpleasant surprises. Let your patients know what office visits and procedures cost and what their cost-sharing portion will be upfront and preferably in advance. Help patients understand what their financial responsibility will be for their health care.
Implementing price transparency may seem like a lot of effort, and honestly, it will be, especially if you have a diverse patient mix. But you have a much better chance of collecting from patients at the time of service if they are prepared. And compared to sending multiple statements, making collection calls, and pursuing payments after the fact, the upfront work more than pays off in the long term.
Train front office staff to initiate payment responsibility discussions with patients
Only about 50% of practices are currently having these types of discussions with patients according to a 2016 study. Be sure your front office staff understands all the components of patient financial responsibility—deductibles, copayments, coinsurance—and give them tools for opening payment discussions with patients at logical contact points. This can begin with appointment schedulers and registration staff; give them scripts to start the conversation focusing on "how" the patient will pay his or her portion, not "when" or "if" they can pay. This gives your staff more confidence in handling these potentially difficult conversations and sets patients up with the clear understanding that they will need to pay at point of service.
Make sure you have patient friendly payment options
Don't hamper your point of service collections by limiting your patient's options to outdated manual payment options such as cash and checks. Credit card payments, e-checks, pay-by-phone options, even electronic payment options on your website all make it easier and more convenient for your patients to pay their share of their health care.
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How does that look for your practice? Maybe you currently accept credit card payments by phone assisted by a staff member. Going forward, perhaps you implement an automated system so patients can make payments at their convenience even after hours or accept credit card payments on your website.
Be sure to ask patients if you can keep their credit card on file, too, to simplify collections and ensure bills get paid. Offering incentives such as preferred appointment times or even a small discount encourages patients to cooperate with the system, making it easier for your staff to open the subject.
Point of service collections is a mindset that needs to extend from the front office to the back office billers so that everyone is on board with the collections efforts. This means verifying eligibility, collecting the right demographic information, and even promoting cooperation between front and backend staff so everyone is clear what the patient's responsibility actually is for a given office visit or procedure.
If you have questions about how to improve your revenue cycle management, contact the billing experts today for a free consultation.