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Posted January 21, 2015

Impacting Patient Experience through Upfront Collections

By Daniel Rabideaux, MAOM

In the past, we’ve had a tendency to think of individuals in two different groups: the mission-driven (that’s most of us) and the margin-driven (those who are keenly focused on financials). In reality, there really aren’t two separate groups. We can’t have mission without margin. Each makes the other possible. Regardless of our role within the organization, we all got into healthcare because we have a passion to help people and make a difference.

Those of us who are mission-driven likely feel a little uncomfortable talking about money. We’d much rather talk about passion, making healthcare better, and saving lives. That’s why it’s important to develop the skillset needed to effectively address financials. It’s not just about the organizations bottom-line, it’s also about providing better patient experiences.

One of the ways we can impact both is by improving upfront collections. We’ve worked with many organizations to implement initiatives to collect payment at the time of service. One organization coached by Studer Group implemented pre-visit phone calls as a way to gather patient information prior to the visit and to discuss payment. Staff were able to answer questions and bring awareness to patient obligations. As a result, the organization increased pre-collection of co-payments and deductibles from near zero in 2011, to $550k, or 1.3 percent of net patient revenue, in 2014. An added bonus:  The organization also reduced their readmission error rate from 30 percent to 5 percent in the same time frame. 

It doesn’t always take rolling out a brand new initiative to make an impact. Below are tips that can be incorporated into conversations that are already taking place.

  • Don’t be afraid to ask for the payment in full. Try using key words such as “The charge for your visit is ‘X’. We accept cash, check or credit card. How will you be paying today?”
  • With all new patients, obtain the full name and contact information for the person financially responsible for all visits or procedures.
  • Verify patient co-pays, deductibles and insurance benefits and discuss portions already met. Co-pays and deductibles should be collected on the date of service, prior to the scheduled procedure.
  • If full payment is not possible at the time of service, finalize a date when it can be paid in full. This prevents long-term payment plans and helps drive a sense of urgency with patients. Try not to go beyond 30 days from the date of service.
  • If a payment plan is the only option, ensure staff have strict guidelines they must follow. For example, a $10 payment a month on an $800 bill should not be acceptable.
  • Try incorporating a secure, online payment system. Provide staff with key words instructing patients on the benefits of online payments and how to use the system.
  • Consider shortening the statement cycle/process. Instead of every 30 days, shorten to 15 days.

A crucial step when rolling out any new initiative is proper training. All staff should be comfortable talking about payment collections and have clear guidelines for financial conversations. Try role playing conversations and provide several different scenarios to share proper responses. Skill labs are an effective way to ensure the right verbiage is being used. Leaders should also round on staff and listen to real-time conversations and interactions with patients to verify the skills learned are being used appropriately and consistently.

Additional Resources:

  • Patient Call Manager: The Clinical Call SystemTM, represents the next generation of systems designed to provide quality touch points along a patient’s continuum of care, both before and after we care for them within our four walls.
  • Studer Conferences are interactive learning events that include keynote speakers, concentrated tracks on key areas of the healthcare organization and “how-to” sessions led by industry experts and Studer Group trusted advisors. Our commitment to you is that leaders will leave with new tools and skills that get results.
  • Gain additional insights, videos and resources on a variety of topics by visiting our complimentary resources page. 

Author

  • Daniel Rabideaux

    Daniel Rabideaux, MAOM

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