A patient financial services director recently shared a quote with me from a patient describing her hospital stay: “The room was clean and the staff provided great care, but I feel like I just had a house drop on me because I got my hospital bill and cannot afford my deductible.”
This isn’t an uncommon situation, as rising insurance deductibles are increasingly becoming a source of financial anxiety for patients. This past March, the Kaiser Family Foundation found that many families don’t have enough liquid assets to cover their deductible in a private health insurance plan. Research showed 49% of households do not have enough liquid assets to cover a higher-range annual deductible, defined as $2,500 for an individual or $5,000 for a family.
Patients have their health to worry about, and medical bills only add to their stress levels. That’s why best-in-class organizations are optimizing and automating front-end technologies and processes to achieve three best practices of a positive patient financial experience.
Step 1: Generate estimates at every point of care
Having a reliable front-end technology fully automate eligibility verification, secure prior authorizations, and generate an accurate patient statement means you can deliver estimates at any point from registration, to bedside, to post care delivery. This step is crucial to foster patient engagement and proactively get patients involved in their financial experience to prevent obligation stresses later on.
This also benefits your organization as providing an accurate estimate to a patient prior to care greatly increases the likelihood of getting paid. Furthermore, Advisory Board research shows that asking patients to pre-pay something—often as little as $20—is effective in maximizing point-of-service collections.
All your staff need to be able to access the same obligation information so any patient can ask about their costs during their hospital stay and always receive the same (and accurate) answer. You want to anticipate patient needs and provide an answers-oriented approach when asked about the cost of care.
Step 2: Make it easy for patients to pay
In this price transparent world, organizations should give patients a full view of their financial obligations (upcoming, current and outstanding balances) with different payment access points. Providing a positive collection process is not easy. You have to guarantee making a payment is a hassle-free experience.
Consider the following questions:
- Have you recently reviewed your collection processes?
- Do you have online payment portals?
- Do you have credit card encryption and uphold security compliance on all payment methods?
If the answer to any of these questions is "no," it’s time to update your technology and operations. The last experience before your patient leaves your hospital is a lasting experience, so your payment processes stay with a patient long after their episode of care.
Step 3: Know how to talk to and support your patients
Your organization should train financial counselors to have respectful, honest conversations with patients about their financial responsibility. Keep in mind these best-practices for communicating with patients:
- Always introduce yourself and your role
- Be prepared with all the necessary patient-specific information
- Speak in a private area and be aware of the tone and volume of your voice
- Offer solutions and payment plan options
You don’t have to navigate this road alone
Implementing best-in-class technology coupled with the right staff training allows you to tie all front-end processes together and deliver a positive patient financial experience. Not only can you put the focus back on the patient, but you can also improve point-of-service collections and make sure your organizational goals and the needs of your patients truly align.