The patient satisfaction puzzle has lots of moving pieces. This satisfaction goes beyond just the care patients receive. Billing and payments have become quite a concern for a lot of patients. It is so much so that quick recovery might just end up meaning very little to a patient that feels as though they might have been subjected to an unfair billing process. Overall, if a patient ends up feeling frustrated over the institution’s collection practice, they automatically become a dissatisfied patient.
As a facility, this is concerning, seeing as when a patient is dissatisfied, it might just put the payment rightly owned to you in jeopardy. This is particularly true for the segment of your patients that are self-paying. It is in view of this that, as an institution, you’ve got to adhere to the best practice and rules as it pertains to charging self-pay patients. Read along for tips on how best to seize the opportunity to manage your self-pay patients while still maintaining patient satisfaction.
Get Proactive About Segmenting Your Self-Pay Portfolio
Following the pandemic and what seems to be ever-rising insurance deductibles, it seems that patients’ payment preferences are shifting. For institutions, this has meant that special arrangements now need to be made to effectively manage the growing self-pay portfolio. Particularly, there is now a need to continuously evaluate each account so that you can potentially connect with the patient on the terms for collection.
An insider tip would be to consider getting smart about segmenting the different portfolios. This could potentially mean using analytics to discern how the different accounts you have might pay before even engaging. The benefits to your facility include overall reduced cost of collection, increased recovery of payments, and improved patient satisfaction.
Note, however, that this scoring and segmentation is barely one-half of the equation. You will need additional strategies for monitoring and refining, even when you decide on using analytics.
Keep Tabs on Patient Communication Preferences
The healthcare business environment requires that, as a provider, you understand the patient’s preferred means of communication and payment. Research shows that patients in their 20s aren’t necessarily keen on answering phone calls, while older patients are less likely to actually check their mail on a regular.
Further, there are patients that might prefer paying via IVR, while there are those that prefer a call center, a printed invoice, or a web portal on your official site. Overall, their preferred mode of payment is solely dependent on their circumstances at the time of collection.
For you to make the patient’s experience less tumultuous, you will need tools that can help you with tracking what each patient prefers. Note that you want to make sure that the customer’s preference as it pertains to communication and payment is compliant with your institution’s policy as well as government regulation.
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Offer Flexible and Clear Payment Arrangements
Even as you make arrangements to reach your financial goal, in this case, payment of what is due to you, you want to do so in a compassionate manner. As you begin the collection process with the patient, either via writing or over the phone, it would be best to keep in mind the patient’s entire relationship with your facility. You need to be able to talk to the patient about their balance without the risk of coming off as pushy and inconsiderate. Patients walk away from your interaction with greater satisfaction when they feel that the hospital wasn’t solely focused on its own financial well-being.
While it might be considered risky, consider establishing a flexible payment plan even with your self-pay patients. Specifically, you want to clearly convey the payment options available. This way, the patient can be able to manage their increasing account volumes, and you can decrease the chances of bad debt write-offs. Be sure to have the terms on paper explicitly stating that the self-pay patient is solely responsible for the entire bill amount and the duration they have to clear it.
Follow the Discount Policy for Self-Pay Patients
As highlighted, self-pay patients are those who are required to pay all or part of the cost of care. To ensure that these individuals have access to health care services, consider making provisions for them to receive a discount.
When it comes to discounts, you want to ensure you are compliant with both federal and state laws. Note that the Federal Register will annually update the sliding fee discount schedule. As an institution, you want to use the sliding fee scale to determine just how much the patient qualifies for.
Look For Hidden Health Coverage
When a self-pay patient goes in for treatment, they probably believe that they do not have any health care coverage. Still, there is a possibility that beneath layers of paperwork and red tape, they actually have a cover. Besides, there have been situations whereby patients that start off as self-pay patients end up getting an insurance cover or being eligible for their state’s Medicaid program.
To ensure that the patient doesn’t end up paying too much for services rendered, consider setting up a comprehensive insurance and healthcare checklist that they could complete before receiving care.
Create a Foolproof Payment Policy
Granted, health care is expensive, and you might feel that you owe your patients some level of compassion when they are unable to meet their obligation. Still, you want to remember that payment is due the moment the services are rendered. You want to ensure that this is part of your payment policy and that patients are aware of this before services are rendered. For those who cannot afford to pay the entire cost during their visit, be sure to have them provide you with a promissory note and a down payment. Overall, having a foolproof payment policy is a sure way to avoid problems during bill collection.
Maintaining positive cash flow for your facility requires that you adhere to the best practice and policies when it comes to billing your self-pay patients. In doing so, you avoid having bad debt write-offs while still ensuring that your patients leave satisfied.