As healthcare providers rely more on patients for revenue, many have started to use more patient-centered strategies, like payment plans, to collect payments. But to ensure you’re improving processes for your organization and for your patients, you need to make sure best practices and policies are in place.
A Growing Trend
Data from the 2011 Trends in Healthcare Payments Report shows that the use of payment plans for healthcare payments has doubled since 2009. From the same report, 63 percent of surveyed patients said that they would utilize payment plans for their healthcare bills if given the option.
5 Best Practices for Successful Payment Plans
1. Automate Payments
A lot of providers support payment plans by managing a calendar of when each payment is owed and calling patients to collect each payment manually. This method makes payment less of a burden on patients, but it adds to the provider’s administrative work. Plus, it still does not ensure payment for the provider. Whether you initiate the payment plan while the patient is in the office or after you send the statement, securely collect and pre-authorize payment information when setting up the plan so you can automatically collect the payment when it is due.
2. Automate Communications
Even when a patient authorizes automated monthly payments, he or she still may forget about the payment until it shows up on the next bank statement, which may create confusion. Improve communication and offer payment transparency by automating email notifications to patients prior to each payment transaction.
Communication Tip: Hand out a one-page “FAQ” for patients explaining how your payment plans work, including payment timing, notifications and payment card security.
3. Draw a Line
It’s great to give patients some flexibility and choice in how much they pay each month, but make sure to set parameters and stick to them. We recommend charging a minimum monthly payment of $100 or requiring that the bill be paid in full within 12 months.
4. Collect Something Upfront
Payment plans are great for patients who are unable to pay the full bill at once, but don’t allow payment plans become a way for patients to put off paying you. Establish a policy that patients must pay a certain percentage of the bill prior to setting up a monthly payment plan.
5. Tailor Payment Plans to Patient Needs
Depending on the scenario, there are three main types of payment plans to offer patients:
- Installment: Use “installment” plans to collect payments against an outstanding balance, and deactivate the plan automatically when the total balance is paid.
- Recurring: Use “recurring” plans to collect payments at a regular, ongoing interval for a subscription service.
- Save on File: Use “save on file” plans to save a patient’s payment card on file to collect the remaining amount owed when the claim is adjudicated. A save on file plan is useful when the patient’s payment responsibility is unknown during the patient visit, if the patient has a high deductible, for example.
For more on payment card security: click here.