Many healthcare providers are serving an increasing number of self-pay patients, who either carry no insurance or have high-deductible coverage. Self-pay patients are more likely to closely scrutinize their bills—and to delay payment when uncertain about the nature or appropriateness of charges. Not surprisingly many providers are seeing a rise in accounts receivable levels among self-pay patients. In fact, a “Financial Pulse” survey by the Healthcare Financial Management Association reflected that 97 percent of hospitals have experienced higher accounts receivable among self-pay patients.
Many providers have undergone statement redesign projects to ensure clear communication in their printed and online patient statements. Although it sounds obvious, it’s helpful to remember patients are not medical coding experts! Yet coding and compliance are the traditional focus areas in healthcare billing.
Eliminate Medical Billing and Coding Confusion
When it comes to self-pay patients, coding is essential but insufficient. Clear and concise communication, whether in print or in an electronic version, is a must. In addition to accurate coding, think in terms of the four basic things patients need to know from a statement: what to pay, when to pay, whom to pay, and how to pay.
What are the primary contents of any statement? A clear total, backed by an itemized service list laid out in a readable grid with items logically grouped, tells the recipient what to pay. A clear due date plainly distinguished from the statement date, along with clearly defined terms and conditions, will tell when to pay. Unambiguous payee contact information will tell whom to pay. Information on payment methods, addressing all available options—credit cards, check, etc.—will tell how to pay. Lastly, patients needing assistance will need a contact method, most likely a phone number, and statement and account numbers to provide to the service representative.
Clarity is the foundational best practice for healthcare billing, and a good place to start is thinking like a new patient, rather than a coding expert.