Although the number of uninsured patients is decreasing under the Affordable Care Act, the amount patients must pay out of pocket for care actually is increasing because of the proliferation of high deductible health plans. According to a recent Healthcare Financial Management Association (HFMA) Executive Roundtable article, this increase in patient payments means “whereas organizations used to take a disjointed view of collecting copays, deductibles, and coinsurance, they are starting to realize it is essential to employ reliable strategies for capturing patient payments.”
A recent study by Connance, a predictive analytic technology provider, found that patients who were satisfied with the billing process were more likely to pay their bills in full than patients who were unsatisfied. Specifically, 74 percent of satisfied patients paid their bills in full compared to 33 percent of unsatisfied patients. That study, the 2014 Connance Consumer Impact Study, was an online survey of 500 healthcare consumers from 46 states, 6 percent uninsured and 94 percent insured.
In total, 35 perecent of respondents gave billing processes a top score of “5” (on a 1-5 scale), and when divided by insurance type, 37 percent of respondents without high deductible plans gave billing processes a top score, while only 28 percent of those with high deductible plans gave the top score.
If a good billing experience motivates patients to pay in full, how can you improve your own billing processes? The participants of that HFMA Executive Roundtable provided several possible options for improving the billing process for patients based on their own experiences in the industry. Participants included Stephen Burr, senior vice president of patient financial services at Carolinas HealthCare System, Charlotte, N.C.; Florence Davis, director of patient accounting and utilization review management for Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta; Stuart Hanson, senior vice president and general manager for consumer payment solutions for Change Healthcare in Nashville, Tenn.; and Robert Mueller, vice president, revenue cycle at St. Luke’s Health System in Boise, Idaho.
Their suggestions included:
- Patient education about the billing process
- Patient communication about the billing process
- Standardizing front office and call center interactions with scripts
- Insurance verification and/or financial clearance
- Informing patients of copays and deductibles as early as possible
- Extended customer service hours
- Preservice cost estimates, when possible
- Multiple bill payment options, including walk-up windows, digital payment solutions like a Web-based portal, and mail-in payments
- Low interest or interest-free payment plans
Of course, a good medical billing company, like CIPROMS, can also help with all of these aspects of an improved billing experience for your patients. The Healthcare Billing & Management Association also offers several tips for helping providers meet patient collection goals by streamlining the billing process.
For a closer look at that Connance study, check out their infographic, “Satisfied Patients Are More Willing to Pay Their Bills,” or read through the announcement of the study released back in December 2014. You can also read through the HFMA Roundtable article for more ideas about improving the patient billing experience by visiting the HFMA website.
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