The healthcare landscape is changing as patient responsibility continues to increase and providers are relying on patients – rather than only payers – for more of their revenue than ever before. Yet, the healthcare payments experience has been slow to change in response. Patients are frustrated with the confusing and inconvenient payments experiences offered to them by their healthcare providers. Providers need to evaluate their billing and payments processes and consider implementing changes that will improve the way they engage with patients about payments.
In a recent webinar, InstaMed Vice President of Strategy, Deirdre Ruttle, addresses this issue and shares tips and best practices for collecting increasing patient responsibility by improving the way you communicate with patients. Here are four kinds of conversations healthcare staff can initiate to change the payments relationship with patients.
“What Payment Method Would You Like Us to Keep Saved on File?”
As with any payment process, it is important to take a proactive approach to patient collections by starting the payment conversation early on. Consider creating a policy where all patients keep payment methods saved on file with your organization. This will make collecting payments from patients easier and help establish that patients are expected to cover their portion of their healthcare responsibility. If a patient asks why they need to save a card on file try these responses:
- “We ask all patients to keep a card saved on file; it’s our policy”
- “Based on your coverage and benefit information, you’re going to owe some amount for this healthcare encounter – we’ll use this card to collect the payment once your responsibility has been determined by your health plan.”
Give your staff visibility into the patient’s benefits information so they can be prepared for any conversation. When staff understand patients’ eligibility and benefits information, they can better help patients understand what they are going to owe. This empowers your staff to feel confident in talking to patients by having all the tools and information readily available to them prior to a patient interaction. This not only increases your likelihood of getting paid, but it also establishes your credibility and allows patients to feel a sense of trust in your organization. Most patients are confused by their medical bills and are just looking for some guidance with the payments process; enable your staff to offer that guidance and build loyal, trusting relationships with patients.
“Your Credit Card Information Is Secure.”
Your patients have seen the data breach headlines in the news and they know that there are risks associated with keeping cards saved on file. It is vital for your organization to ensure your patients’ credit card information and the way you store payment information it is secure. Don’t allow staff to save any payment information on paper – for example, never write down a patient’s credit card number. Encryption is the simplest and most effective way to ensure that payment information is secure and cannot be viewed or accessed by any organization.
Furthermore, you must instill confidence in your patients that their information is protected. Your staff must be able to assuredly convey that your patient’s credit card information is secure and that your organization has the highest levels of security and compliance. The easiest way to do this is to work with a payments vendor that is up to date with all security and compliance standards, including HITRUST and PCI. If your organization cuts corners around security and compliance, you are not only increasing your chance of a data breach but also losing the valuable trust of your patients.
“We’ll Never Charge Your Card More Than What You Owe.”
It’s very easy for patients to become frustrated with providers over high healthcare expenses, but you can help your patients understand that their responsibility is determined by their health plan. Start by collecting a portion of the healthcare payment upfront. Not only is this good for cash flow, but it also makes payment easier for patients. When they do receive a bill, they’ve already made some payment on it, making it seem lower than expected or like they’ve already made good progress on paying it back. This creates a more positive experience rather than receiving a bill that is overwhelming and repayment hasn’t even started.
Patients might be intimidated by the idea of letting you charge their card to collect their responsibility – especially if it’s possible that the responsibility is in the thousands. Ease patient concerns by establishing a charge limit. This lets patients know the maximum amount they will be charged and will also lead to conversations about other payment options like payment plans.
“We Want to Make This Easy for You – You Have Options.”
Healthcare is personal and patients want to feel like you are on their side – calling them the day before a major surgery and telling them that they have to pay $4,000 before they can have the surgery is not the best way to handle it. Establish the conversation with patients early on and let them know their payment options. Talk with your patients about payment plans and automated payments and let them know these options are available. Some patients may find that automated payments give them a sense of control as they know that their card will be charged a specific amount at a specific time. Plus, when patients save a card on file, it gives your organization payment assurance with the guarantee that you have a way to collect from patients.
Patients also want visibility into their payment process. Do you have a patient portal? If so, talk to patients about their options with a portal and give them some ownership over their healthcare bills. With a patient portal, patients can access a digital wallet where they can store and manage payment methods, view their payment history 24/7, enroll in eStatements and set up self-service payment plans.
Additionally, it is important to remember that every patient is different. Make sure your patients know that they have multiple options to pay including paying a balance over the phone or setting up payments through their bank bill pay portal. Options give patients convenience and show that you respect their preferences. Show your patients you care by giving them simplest and easiest ways to pay their bills.