Patient payment responsibility continues to grow, and providers need to find ways to streamline the collection process. Since 2010, the amount a consumer must pay before a health plan covers any portion has increased by 67 percent. (Kaiser Family Foundation) To collect these payments, providers have turned to new technologies and collection initiatives to improve efficiency and cater to consumer payment preferences.
However, there is no one-size-fits-all solution. Not all patients have the same needs and preferences, and not all healthcare organizations see the same population of patients. To maximize the benefits of payment technologies, providers need to have insight into their receivables data to know what’s working and why it’s working, then adjust resources accordingly. It is crucial to be able to track the performance of new collection initiatives over a long period of time and have the flexibility to report on performance in a way that best suits your organization (e.g., quarterly, annually, monthly, etc.).
In order to maximize patient payments, providers need to have access to easily understandable payment reporting and answer the following key questions to diagnose and treat your collection strengths and weaknesses:
Where are my payments coming from?
Diagnosis: Many of your patients engage with your staff at the time of service.
Treatment: Consider increasing front office collection efforts, since this interaction point is working well. Use the time your front office staff interacts with patients to engage with them about their other payment options, including: saving a payment card on file to automatically pay when a bill is available, setting up a payment plan for larger balances and creating an account with your online patient portal to easily manage bills in one place.
Diagnosis: Many of your patients are paying online.
Treatment: Assess how your organization can maximize this payment channel. Your patients are already going online to pay, so make sure they know about all of your consumer-initiated payment options, like setting up payment plans and managing a digital wallet. What other information could you be communicating to them online? Is your online payment portal mobile friendly?
What payment methods are my patients using?
Diagnosis: Most of your patients are willing to pay electronically.
Treatment: Increase awareness about all the different ways patients can pay with their preferred payment cards – e.g., credit, debit, HSA, rewards cards, etc. If they use their payment cards at the point of service, train your staff to talk to patients about other electronic options, like your online payment portal. Emphasize benefits such as security and simplicity of payments when discussing these options with patients.
Diagnosis: Your patients are still sending you a lot of paper checks.
Treatment: Let them! A best practice for collecting patient payments is to let them pay any way they want. However, recent research from LHK Partners shows that only 30% of consumers want to use paper checks, so make sure your patients understand all of their payment options. Use stronger messaging on your paper statements about other payment options: “Wish you could make this payment automatically instead of breaking out the check book? It’s easy!”
Are my patients using alternative payment options to pay?
Diagnosis: Some of your patients are paying from their bank bill pay sites, at walk-in bill pay centers or through their health plan’s website.
Treatment: In addition to consumerism, other variables — such as age, geography or income — may drive your patients’ payment preferences. If some of your patients are paying through one of these channels, chances are you have other patients who would also prefer this payment option. Use reporting to identify how many of your patients use alternative payment channels and educate your entire patient population about these options.
Is my staff collecting the amount they’re estimating?
Diagnosis: You’re estimating patient payment responsibility but don’t seem to be collecting amounts based on the estimates.
Treatment: If you’re using a method to communicate estimated patient payment responsibility, use reporting to analyze your collections based on those estimates. If there is consistently a gap, consider retraining staff on best practices for how to collect after estimating a patient’s responsibility. You could also consider rolling out an incentive program and reward the highest-performing staff members.
Diagnosis: You’re estimating patient payment responsibility and it’s working!
Treatment: Find ways you can improve. Reporting will show you that this collection initiative has been successful, so consider how you can refine it and then double-down on these efforts. Compare your numbers from last quarter and set higher goals for next quarter based on your findings.
The goal of reporting is to be able to effectively and efficiently access your payment data to make informed and actionable decisions to continue improving your patient collections. We think this is so important that we’re improving our own reporting.