4 Ways to Improve the Patient Payment Process

It is critical healthcare providers receive payment in full for the services they provide as quickly as possible, but patient participation in the payment for healthcare services has made the whole process far more complex for healthcare providers. By better understanding your customer and his or her propensity to pay, it's possible to provide real improvements to collections and reduce accounts receivable.

Matt LlewellynThe collection process is extremely complex in the healthcare sector, with payments often coming from multiple sources, one of which is of course the patient.

But how can healthcare providers best utilize their existing resources in the payment collection process? There are certain technology solutions that can be easily implemented and used to improve revenue cycle management and provide for a positive patient experience when patients are called upon to pay for their portion of healthcare services.

One particularly effective way in which healthcare providers can improve collections is by breaking down self-pay patients into one of four classifications and apply strategies to collect from them accordingly

Patients able and likely to pay: Offer multiple payment channels

First, there are those patients who are always going to pay, but it would be good to get them to pay quickly. So by offering multiple payment channels, providers can quickly reduce their RCM time. If healthcare providers also include the use of web payment portals, interactive voice response and personal URLs on statements, it's possible to offer more ways for patients to conveniently make payments, encouraging more patients to pay their bills on time. And remember, if you offer on-site credit and debit card payment services, you can collect payment at the point of service.

Patients who resist payment: Focus on the payors and outsource

Second, there are those patients that can and for the most part will pay their bill but will delay, resist and at times refuse to do so. For these patients, you should consider your outsourcing options in order to focus your internal efforts on those patients that you believe have an average or higher propensity to pay. This will enable you to make the most of internal resources and employee skills.

All medical service providers should establish an out-of-office means for payment collection — such as a website that accepts debit or credit cards — for all patients that fall into these first two groups.

Patient who can't pay the entire bill: Offer flexible payment terms

Identify those patients that have funds — but only for a portion of the bill — and offer them flexible payment terms. It is easy to work with a payments processor that will enable you to implement payment plans with automated recurring withdrawals to allow for maximum recovery of the debt being serviced.

The technology is now available to introduce new and more patient-friendly and convenient payment channels such as pre-funded accounts, where healthcare providers can receive what is in effect a "payment of good faith," encouraging patients to pay upfront for their upcoming treatments or procedures.

All of this crucially contributes to a reduction in RCM, ensuring that healthcare providers are paid for their services in good time.

Patients who can't afford the bill: Identify them quickly

It's important to quickly identify those patients who are unable to pay their bill, and follow your internal policies regarding charity care and bad debt allocations. This means you don't waste time and effort trying to get these patients to pay with checks or credit and debit cards which they just don't have.

By using technology to enhance the collection of payments, providers can quickly understand their patients by their ability to pay and then offer them the most appropriate payment options accordingly. This will significantly reduce outstanding balances and patient bad debt, improve RCM and improve the whole patient experience from treatment to payment.

Matt Llewellyn joined BillingTree in 2012 bringing over 20 years of experience in healthcare and IT. As vice president of healthcare sales and new business development, Matt is responsible building on the existing success within the vertical and to identify and implement new partner integrations from within the healthcare market. Prior to joining BillingTree, Mr. Llewellyn held senior leadership roles at multiple organizations including RelayHealth, HRS Erase and NDCHealth. He received his MBA from Saint Louis University and a BS in Engineering Management from the University of Missouri-Rolla.

More Articles on Hospital Collections:

Banner Health Moves to Consolidated Bills for Patients
Why Cash is King: Q&A With Dawn Javersack, CFO of Boca Raton Regional Hospital

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