Now more than ever, the time is right to take a close look at healthcare billing. The new administration may bring more change in patient financial responsibility, which creates even greater uncertainty among patients and providers alike.
Being ill or having a family member ill is emotionally challenging enough without adding the confusion of complex billing. In a time of change, providing patients with clarity and confidence in the statement process and their provider is more important than ever. Personalizing the experience is a proven way to earn trust. Patients differ – not just individually but by generation as well – in the ways they seek and respond to information. You can respond to those differences to individualize your billing processes, make the interaction more relevant and less daunting to patients, and strengthen your relationships with them.
Help Patients Understand
As patient share of healthcare costs grows, there is increasing pressure on providers to improve multiple aspects of billing and payment – reducing bad debt, lowering the costs to collect, and improving cash flow – all while maintaining patient loyalty. The challenge is that patients are people, not numbers, and the easy way for one patient to receive and pay bills may be confusing or inappropriate for another. The right tools can help providers tailor the process to best fit each patient’s preferences, simplify and speed up payment, and reduce costs.
Treat Patients as Individuals in the Financial Experience
Research has shown that far fewer patients are receiving bills electronically than would prefer this method. This is ironic since electronic presentation of bills can be very cost effective for providers. As an industry, how are we missing the mark? Even electronic billing is not a one-size-fits-all process. Different people may prefer billing on the Web, via email, or by mobile app or text. Automation lets you offer more options for billing and payment without increasing the complexity of your processes.
Whatever the form of the billing, clarity and readability can make a significant difference in patient acceptance and behavior. The bill itself and the messaging that accompanies it can have significant impact on the entire patient experience. Unclear bills often get set aside rather than paid. When this happens, payment may require several reminders and can entail costly phone consultations before being settled. In some cases bills may not be paid at all. Clear, readable billing, presented in a medium that the patient is comfortable with can simplify and speed payment, educate the patient, and build the relationship with you, the provider. In short, the form and format of billing can make the difference between an easy, positive process and a repetitively unpleasant one.
Building the Relationship
The financial relationship is not an event; it is part of a process that begins with one or more face-to-face interactions between patients and their doctors. The billing and payment process may include a variety of emails, texts, paper statements, web-based messages, and phone contacts. The more patient-centered and integrated these are, the more valued and respected the patient feels and the smoother and more satisfying the process will be for all involved. Patient billing and payment interactions can be tailored for the best fit to each person. Automation can handle the heavy lifting to manage the complex aspects of this personalization, leaving staff free to answer questions and deal person-to-person with patients.
We know a lot about patients, but that insight is often overlooked in less personal financial interactions. As uncertainty continues, tailoring financial interactions for each patient based on his or her personal history benefits both patient and provider by making each patient’s financial relationship simple, personal, and clear.