Unpaid patient payments are cutting revenue for hospitals across the country, as shown in this recent article about a large hospital chain with lower-than-expected earnings. According to the Trends in Healthcare Payments Annual Report: 2012, the rapid growth of patient responsibility is creating a need for improved patient collection processes for hospitals.
Aspen Valley Hospital, based in Colorado, also saw the need to improve collection processes. Its staff often missed the opportunity during patient visits to collect payments, instead putting the burden of collecting almost entirely on back office staff, which required sending multiple statements and making follow-up calls. With increasing patient responsibility, collecting in the front office became vital for Aspen Valley Hospital to get paid. To increase front office patient collections, Aspen Valley Hospital implemented new technology and operational processes.
Portable Payment Technology
First, Aspen Valley Hospital introduced portable payment swipe devices to enable staff to collect patient payments from any location. These payments post online in real-time, so staff can be access payment information from any web-based computer or device.
Staff can even accept payments during bedside discharge by keying in payment information using iPads instead of asking patients to pay at a desk.
By expanding payment locations, Aspen Valley Hospital reduced the number of patient statements mailed and saved 10 hours each week spent trying to collect after the patient leaves.
Accessible Payment Options
When patients do receive a statement, it includes a URL to Aspen Valley Hospital’s online payment option, enabling the hospital to collect payments without requiring staff work. Because Aspen Valley is a popular tourist destination, the hospital has a significant international patient base. With online payments, even if patients live in another country they can easily go online to pay their hospital bills.
Online patient payments have been so successful that Aspen Valley Hospital expanded this feature to registration for its evening community health classes, so attendees can register and pay immediately from the hospital’s website.
In addition to technology changes, the hospital also implemented internal process changes among staff to improve collections. For instance, the hospital created a team-based incentive program to motivate staff to collect during the patient visit. With easily accessible payment reporting, the hospital tracks front office payments to highlight staff progress toward the team goal. Additionally, staff members are motivated to share successful collection tips and scripts to empower others to collect as well. To further boost front office collections, the hospital offers patients prompt-pay discounts.