Last week I discussed two pitfalls we commonly see at hospitals that threaten patient satisfaction: confusing patient statements and delayed patient refunds. Continuing the focus on the patient financial experience, the list of pitfalls expands.
Pitfall 3: Inconsistent point of service collections
Time and again, HBI sees patient access staff fail to advise patients of financial obligations prior to service and fail to consistently ask for payment at time of service when the organization has a point of service collections program in place. At some organizations, we have even seen medical practices lack the ability to take co-pay collections. Some didn’t have any means to process credit card payments—frustrating patients who prefer to take care of co-payment right away, instead of receiving a bill weeks/months later.
This inconsistency on the front-end contributes to more time, effort, and expense on back-end collections. In addition, with rising out-of-pocket patient expenses, upfront collections and price transparency can help patients financially plan and prepare, alleviating the financial burden.
Pitfall 4: Lack of financing options and community support for patients
In addition to monitoring self-pay A/R, it’s important to compare your organization’s charity care write-offs as a percent of net patient revenue (NPR) against benchmarks. HBI’s national charity care write-off benchmark is around 5% of NPR. If your organization falls significantly below the charity care benchmark but has a high volume of aging self-pay A/R, this may be a sign that patient funding options should be diversified. Options include offering patient discount options and low interest loan options. In addition, a debt amnesty campaign, or yearly settlement initiative to coincide with tax season, is very effective in the collection of aged patient balances. Such discounts or programs usually consists of a one-time 30%–50% discount offer extended to several groups of patients: those with aged accounts, those who are on extended payment plans, and those with existing bad debt. The discount might be offered to one of the groups, to all three, or a combination.
It’s important that staff be well versed on all payment options and that financial counselors proactively counsel uninsured patients. Lack of staff comprehension of patient financial assistance policies and programs means patients are less likely to be aware of payment options or financial assistance alternatives.
Avoiding these common pitfalls will position organizations to accelerate cash, reduce self-pay A/R, and increase satisfaction scores and patient retention rates.
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