In part one of this series, "Consumerism is the New Ball Game", we looked at the shifts happening in the healthcare industry. Though we painted a fairly dismal picture, we are confident savvy revenue cycle leaders will adapt to the new landscape and drive success for their organizations.
Part Two: Solutions: Payment options
We’re all familiar with the Hippocratic Oath. Before a physician can practice medicine, he or she must first vow to “do no harm.” It seems revenue cycle departments should take a similar oath, because medical bills are doing real harm to some patients.
But it doesn’t have to be this way. In fact, offering a patient-friendly financial experience not only helps patients, it can boost your bottom line.
Obviously, there are some situations that don’t allow for financial discussions before care is given. But in the cases when there is time, an honest, open conversation about what the procedure or series of office visits will cost, as well as what the patient can afford, go a long way to ensuring the patient feels cared for and the provider gets paid.
Estimation tools can help patients prepare for medical expenses, prevent sticker shock, and boost patient loyalty. And because more than 90% of patients want to know the cost of their medical care before they receive it, providing early estimates can be an important point of differentiation in an increasingly competitive healthcare market.
Not all patients are the same, so not all patient accounts should be treated the same. Some patients are able but unwilling to pay their medical bills. Others are willing to pay, but don’t have the resources to do so all at once. Segmenting these two different kinds of patient accounts allows for a more personalized experience for patients and more successful collection efforts for providers.
Prompt pay discounts
More than two-thirds of patients who owe less than $500 never fully pay off their medical bills, which results in billions of dollars of bad debt write offs for hospitals. One way to ensure patients don’t abandon their payments is to offer a prompt pay discount. Asking a patient to pay less than their full bill upfront might seem counterintuitive, but a lump sum payment with a 10% discount is far better than allowing a patient account to go to collections—where you’ll receive pennies on the dollar of the original amount—or writing it off completely.
Credit cards & third-party financing
While many patients require several months to pay off a medical bill completely, most hospitals don’t have the capital to extend long-term financing to those patients. That’s where the ability to accept credit cards or offer financing through a third party can help both patients and providers. Even better, setting up a system that allows for automatic payments through credit or banking accounts creates accountability for patients and consistent cashflow for providers.
The financial burdens of medical expenses weigh heavily on patients, creating stress and, often, less than ideal health outcomes. Giving them different options to pay is a win-win for both patients and providers. But it is equally important to allow them to make those payments in ways that are convenient to them. In part three, we’ll look at how a digital engagement platform can empower patients during their financial journey.