Whether your organization is for-profit, nonprofit, critical access, pediatric, etc., patients have a choice in their care. As the patient financial experience has a profound impact on patient satisfaction, it is important that it is accessible, consistent, and as pleasant as possible. The 2012 Connance Consumer Impact Study found that patients who are highly satisfied with a hospital’s billing processes are twice as likely to return to the facility for non-emergent care – yet only one in four patients gives top scores to hospital billing processes.
Among the most common pitfalls we’ve seen at organizations, that both threaten the patient financial experience and deaccelerate cash flow, are related to patient statement and patient refunds.
Pitfall 1: Confusing patient statements
Confusing patient statements are a surefire way to foster patient frustration. HBI recommends taking a fresh-eyes approach to your billing statements and ensure that they are accurate, clear, and patient-centric. Especially in a market of mergers and acquisitions, it’s increasingly important to ensure billing statements have the correct hospital name and contact information. We’ve seen billing statements of hospitals whose name changed more than two years ago still reflect the old hospital name. It’s also essential that billing statements contain informative but friendly messages. Statements should communicate financial assistance policies or the online location where patients can obtain the organization’s Financial Assistance Policy (FAP) or plain language summary.
When applicable, a statement should give online portal information. The URL link should be short, and the website should be easy to navigate and should mirror the same terminology as the billing statements. We’ve seen hospitals get into trouble when the statement referred to an “account number” but the portal referred to the same number as “encounter number.” A well designed and marketed patient portal where patients can make payments is a convenient payment method for patients. (For more ideas on patient statement best practices, see our journal article.)
Pitfall 2: Delayed patient refunds
It’s not uncommon for credit balances to be low on the list of priorities for back-office staff. However, delayed patient refunds can tarnish a hospitals’ reputation. We’ve seen refunds issued one to two years after service. In order to help ensure that credit balances are worked in a timely manner, hospitals have found success by including credit balances as a factor in billing department leaders’ annual performance evaluations, creating top-down accountability.
These are just two examples of common pitfalls. Stay tuned for more pitfalls to avoid to position your organization to accelerate cash, reduce self-pay A/R, and increase satisfaction scores and patient retention rates.
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