5 Ways Hospitals Can Improve Point-of-Service Payments

As hospitals look for simple ways to clear bad debt, point-of-service collections have made their way into the foreground. If patients pay before or on the day of their surgeries, it eliminates tedious and drawn-out backend work. However, a recent TransUnion Healthcare survey showed that approximately 70 percent of hospitals and health systems collect less than 30 percent of patients' out-of-pocket costs at the point of service. The most common reasons why more payments were not collected at the point of service included patients being unprepared to make the payment and patients unaware of the option to pay at the time of service.

Milton Silva-Craig, executive vice president of TransUnion Healthcare, says a hospital's point-of-service collections can easily be corralled. He shares are five ways hospitals can increase their point-of-service payments, which ultimately reduce a hospital's costs and remove the inefficiencies of backend collections.

1. Find support from executive level. The top executives at a hospital naturally want bad debt shaved down. Convincing them that point-of-service collections empower the staff and lead to good customer satisfaction will give the revenue cycle team the backing it needs to move forward with new point-of-service methodologies, Mr. Silva-Craig says.

2. Use technology to validate patient information quickly. As mentioned earlier, a lack of knowledge and preparedness is one of the biggest reasons hospitals don't collect payments early. However, technologies exist today that could correctly identify all patient information at the point of service, Mr. Silva-Craig says. Health IT is vastly different than a decade or so ago, and staff members are able to identify patients, verify patient information and validate if a patient has insurance. As hospitals convert to ICD-10 and electronic health records, these technologies are becoming more commonplace, but this is another area where executive support can lead to quick utilization of the proper technology, Mr. Silva-Craig says. The staff must be properly trained on all new billing technology, he adds.

3. Inform patients of all payment options well beforehand. After the hospital's frontline staff validates all patient information, they can then run real-time transactions to determine the patients' deductibles, how much the procedure will cost, how much the payor will pick up and what the patients' overall liabilities will be. Modeling contracts between payors and hospitals and finding out what patients need to pay are nothing more than mathematical algorithms, Mr. Silva-Craig says. Informing patients of the pertinent payment options beforehand will give them a more thorough understanding of their obligation to the hospital. "If you don't collect that patient's obligation at the time of service and 30 days passes, the collectability of that patient's bill diminishes by about 90 percent," he says.

4. Recommend payment plans to patients who have high-deductibles.
If a patient is covered under a high-deductible health plan, it could be unrealistic for some patients to pay, for example, $2,000 out-of-pocket, Mr. Silva-Craig says. Therefore, hospitals should inform patients of payment plans and immediately qualify them. Doing this will reiterate their fiscal obligation to the hospital, and patients are more likely to make the initial and subsequent payments if they know a pay schedule is already in place, he says.

5. Incorporate the registration process into an online self-service model.
Point-of-service collections obviously exclude emergency situations, but for patients going through elective procedures, it may be wise for hospitals to guide patients to preregistration through the hospital's website, Mr. Silva-Craig says. Patients can come in prepared, knowing all financial responsibilities, if a hospital has a centralized patient preregistering option on its website.

Related Articles on Point-of-Service Collections:

4 Ways to Improve Point-of-Service Collections From ED Patients
Four Trends in Hospital Revenue Cycle Management
Three Financial Statistics Your Hospital Should Track

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