Healthcare costs keep climbing, and patients continue to be responsible for more of the cost of care. With patient financial responsibility growing, providers have a great opportunity to boost revenue, but collecting from patients also comes with unique challenges, particularly in the current health crisis.
Over the past several months, the entire fabric of the world and healthcare system has been forced to change due to the global pandemic. Covid-19 impacted every aspect of healthcare, and continues to do so, including the way the revenue cycle works. Many communities and practices dedicated all their resources to fighting the continuing pandemic, and companies across the country had to lay-off or furlough employees to avoid losing their business.
Even as we begin to see a slight decline in the number of coronavirus cases and look towards the future, many providers continue to feel the challenges from a pandemic that’s also turned into a major economic problem. Because so many individuals have lost their jobs due to Covid-19 furloughs and lay-offs, it’s been reported that two out of five working-age adults no longer have stable health coverage, and over 33% deal with medical bill problems.
With more patients dealing with unstable coverage – or no health insurance coverage at all – your practice may be concerned about the impact this could have on your bottom line. The key is to ensure you have adequate methods of collecting on patient financial responsibility, now and in the future. Moving forward, here are some of the top strategies you can use to improve collection and keep your revenue cycle moving.
Verifying Patient Coverage and Eligibility Becomes More Critical
It’s always been critical to verify patient coverage and eligibility before providing services. However, with a coverage environment that’s more fluid at the moment, it’s even more vital to your bottom line to ensure you’re doing this. Be sure you’re verifying insurance benefits before service to prevent any delays and ensure you collect coinsurance or copayments upfront.
If patients don’t seem to have coverage, you still have several options. Coverage discovery solutions can help you and the patient determine if there are any sources of insurance for them, whether it’s Medicaid, commercial insurance, or Medicare. Ensuring that you identify any unknown coverage up front helps keep patients from dealing with the higher costs of being a self-pay account and will make it easier to prevent potential lags in accounts receivable.
Changing Up Your Patient Connection at Check-In
Think about how you’re connecting with patients at check-in. That initial touchpoint is key to informing patients about their financial responsibility and the payment options available to them. While some practices have started using shared tablets for check-in, sharing devices has become problematic with the current pandemic and many question what’s on their screen or may have difficulty changing text to make it easy for them to read.
Consider offering the “bring your own device” check-in option. This allows patients to go through the check-in process using their own tablet or smartphone. This includes allowing them to see their benefit information, make a payment, and access available self-service payment tools. By giving patients the ability to check-in on their own device, it puts them in control of the financial experience they have in the office. Even more important, surveys have shown that 80% of patients would like to use their own secure mobile device for check-in and up to 65% would be happy to download a mobile app they can use to pay healthcare bills.
Maximize the Power of Billing Statements
According to the Trends in Healthcare Payments Tenth Annual Report, just 17% of consumers are receiving medical bills electronically. However, 71% would like to get e-statements from healthcare providers. If you’re not providing your patients with e-statements, you’re missing out on an opportunity to improve collection of patient responsibility. This doesn’t mean you have to eliminate paper statements, continuing to still send them to patients who may prefer them, but giving patients the option to sign-up for e-statements that take them to a portal where they can also make payments.
Make sure statements are easy to understand, too, and offer very clear instructions on available payment options. By offering clear statements and clear instructions, you increase your chance or collecting that open balance.
Provide Payment Plans, But Keep Track of Them
For patients who have larger balances, providing payment plans helps the patient more easily pay off the balance and increase the chance that patients will pay off the bill in full. The flexibility of a payment plan is particularly helpful right now when many workers are still laid off or just getting back to work.
But don’t just provide payment plans; make sure you and your patients are keeping track of those plans. It puts patients in the driver’s seat financially, but they need to understand how to track the payment plan and your practice can’t forget to track these payments as well to ensure they’re not being forgotten.
Make Online Payments Effortless
Last, make online payments effortless for your patients if you want to improve collection on patient responsibility. This means having an online portal that’s easy to use for patients, providing a secure digital wallet, automatic payment options, flexibility payment plans, e-statements, detailed payment history, and more. Other practices that have implemented similar measures have seen a large portion of payments being made online as well as a decrease in the staff effort and time used to collect patient payments.
Working to continue providing the best care to patients while keeping your practice financially afloat during a pandemic proves difficult. Practices continue dealing with unique challenges presented by the ongoing Covid-19 health crisis. With higher amounts of financial responsibility falling on patients, your practice must adjust to ensure you’re collecting patient responsibility effectively. Implementing these strategies can help your practice, and as a nationwide billing and coding service, M-Scribe is standing by to help you, too. We specializing in medical billing, working with practices across the country as they adapt to the changes we’re seeing in the healthcare landscape. For more information on how we can help your practice, contact M-Scribe.com today.