Strategies for Engaging Patients in the Payment Process
Medical clinics and facilities across the entire healthcare landscape know the challenges of collecting patient payments. Even in the best situations, you render services and have to wait an average of 40-50 days to get reimbursed from an insurance payer or receive payment from self-pay patients. Over the last decade there has also been a significant change in how much of the financial burden is on the patient, with many employers and insurance companies shifting more of the costs to patients.
As we start to move into a post-COVID-19 environment, the number of patients who are going to need care is likely to increase. At the same time, unemployment numbers have dramatically accelerated, and for tens of thousands of former employees that also means losing insurance coverage.
A Looming Payment Crisis
Paying for medical bills has never been a high priority for patients, competing with mortgage or rent payments, grocery bills, and debt like student loans. Unfortunately people with depleted savings and mounting debt may find it even harder to pay these bills in the near future. Medical practices that take time to implement some key patient engagement strategies now will be in a better position for medical payment collection now and in the future.
7 Key Engagement Strategies
Here are seven strategies that you can implement now to improve revenue collection. To see more detail about each of these things, and some best practices, check out our eBook Patient Financial Engagement in a Post-COVID-19 World: 7 Head-on Initiatives that Help Patients Pay (and feel good about it).
- Verify insurance eligibility for every patient twice, once before the visit and once before sending the claim.
- Create a simple, straightforward financial policy that addresses payment requirements and provide it to every patient. Train staff on enforcing the policy and answering questions to help struggling patients find solutions.
- Offer several payment and financial assistance options, especially payment plans that allow someone to pay slowly over time.
- Estimate the total cost of a visit or procedure and provide that information to the patient. Lack of transparency in pricing is a significant frustration for many people.
- Help staff learn to be friendly, but firm, by insisting on payment and enforcing policies. Financial discussions can be hard, so staff training is essential.
- Be proactive about discussions with patients related to payments, and offer multiple ways for them to communicate with you, find answers to questions, and raise concerns.
- Provide multiple patient payment solutions by offering online payment portals, automated reminders by text, email, and mail (if desired), and statement designs that provide clear, simple information about the outstanding balance, due date, and payment options.
As clinics open back up to patients throughout the U.S., figuring out how to ramp up and maintain cash flow levels is essential for practice management. Taking proactive steps now that allow you and the patient to work together can reduce the stress and let you focus on care for people who really need it.