Collecting on patient balances is a costly challenge, and unfortunately, a majority of healthcare organizations only collect a fraction of a patient’s debt after a visit. One in three patients whose balances exceed $200 do not pay them in full, and practices typically collect an average of only 6% of the patient’s balance when this is the case.
When patients aren’t paying their bills on time, cash flow isn’t consistent, and that can make it hard to make business decisions. How can healthcare organizations get patients to pay their bills faster, without making them uncomfortable or asking staff to chase down payments? In this blog post, Jessica Mackie, Office Manager at ENT Specialists in Novi, Mich., and Geni Patterson, Clinical Applications Specialist at Midwest Center for Women’s HealthCare, headquartered in Bannockburn, Ill., share how they’ve streamlined the payments experience for patients and staff and improved collections at their organizations. You can learn more about their best practices by watching the on-demand replay of our Front Office of the Future webinar, “Accelerating payments to collect faster and smarter.”
1. Automate the E&B verification process
Eligibility and benefits (E&B) verification is a crucial first step in ensuring that your organization is paid fully and promptly for the services it provides. But waiting on hold on the phone with insurance companies to verify that information is far from the best use of your staff’s time.
Automated E&B verification takes seconds and can be done multiple times before a visit. Equipped with this information, your staff can quickly determine patients’ financial responsibility and reconcile any E&B issues well before they arrive. This paves the way for complete and timely collections—and helps prevent costly denials.
2. Allow patients to pay online before, during and after their visit
Digital payment tools take the burden of asking for patients off of your staff the burden of asking for payments off of your staff and give patients the convenience they expect. A recent Phreesia survey found that most patients want the option to pay online—70% told us they would likely make healthcare payments online.
When patients complete intake online prior to their arrival or on their mobile device in the waiting room, you have an ideal opportunity to prompt them to make a time-of-service payment. This helps avoid awkward conversations with staff and gives patients ample notice about what they owe. By automating payment reminders after the visit, you can make it easy for patients to follow up on their balance without requiring staff to make calls.
“When a patient is made aware of their balance before even walking in the door, they don’t have to have that moment of shock at the front desk in front of an audience where they think, ‘Oh my gosh, I have a large balance,’” Mackie said.
3. Enable card-on-file and automated payments
No one wants to fish for their credit card and enter that information every time they need to make a payment. Make it easier for patients to pay on time and in full. Offer digital tools that allow them to keep their credit card on file and automatically make payments whenever they have a balance.
Payment plans also can help ensure consistent payments from those who prefer to pay their balance over time. By allowing patients to set up their own payment plan online, you can make this process more flexible for patients and staff alike.
“Now that we’re offering streamlined, self-service payment plans, patients don’t have to have an awkward conversation to explain their ability to pay,” Mackie said. “During check-in, they can simply design a payment plan with the frequency that makes sense to them—it has been really positive for both patients and our front desk, because it’s not always a comfortable conversation to have.”
4. Make the payment process easy
Above all, healthcare organizations’ top priority should be to make it easy for patients to pay their balances by breaking down the barriers that lead to delayed or unpaid bills. That starts with using straightforward technology that doesn’t require patients to download an app or remember a login, both of which only create more obstacles to timely payments.
Similarly, the entire payment process should take place on a single web page, so that patients don’t have to click through multiple pages to pay their bill. This simplicity reduces abandonment, increases collection rates and speeds up the entire process. In addition, mobile payment services like Apple Pay® and Google Pay™ can expedite payments even more quickly, making it easy for patients to quickly pay via their preferred method.
As they seek to bolster their collections, Patterson says the most important thing healthcare organizations can do is add flexibility and remove burden. “People like options. Patients are thrilled when they have options,” they said. “Ultimately, we want to make the patient feel comfortable and we want it to be an easy process.”
Learn how Phreesia can help make the payment process easier for patients, less burdensome for staff—and better for your bottom line.