Consolidated billing will improve collection rates

Patients, providers and payers prefer consolidated healthcare billing. Why does it matter?

Let's talk about why we need to change healthcare billing.
Where to start? According to Elite Blog (October, 2015), providers send an average of 3.3 billing statements before patients pay an outstanding balance in full. One look under the hood of the healthcare billing status quo will show you why.

It's confusing and it's nothing like what today's consumers are accustomed to.

Imagine spending the day shopping at the mall. You purchase clothing from several stores, buy lunch at a mall restaurant and grab coffee from the kiosk to keep you going. Now, imagine if each merchant sent you a bill, even if you used one credit card for all your purchases. That's similar to how patients are billed in most of today's health systems. Add health insurance to the mix and billing gets even more complicated. In fact, 61 percent of respondents rated their medical bills as confusing or very confusing, according to Mad*Pow research. And 56 percent of them said they actually hesitate to get care because of billing confusion. Confused patients means providers are chasing down payments and suffering from poor collection rates.

When we look at the landscape of any other consumer-centric service today and compare that with what consumers of healthcare services face, it displays a stark truth.

Consumers are confused.

It's time to change healthcare billing.
A revolution in the way the healthcare industry approaches healthcare billing is needed. Consider the five steps below as a starting point.

A simple bill design. Healthcare bills should be free of jargon. Consumers should be able to easily locate the information that is most relevant to them, like when the payment is due, how much it is and ways to pay.

A consolidated bill. Reduce the amount of paperwork a patient receives from providers and insurers. Deliver one monthly statement for an entire family that includes both Explanation of Benefits (EOB) and patient invoice data, eliminating the need to send separate EOBs and physicians' statements.

One bill collector. Part of consolidating the healthcare bill is having a point of contact for the consumer. If you have one bill, you have one place collecting payments, troubleshooting patient concerns and giving patients a better experience.

Easy account access. With all the ways people are using technology today, they should be able to have easy access through their computers, phones or smart devices to review their account and pay their bills. Gone are the days of wondering if you have a healthcare bill you haven't paid. If there's one source with easy access, it's easier to help keep track of your bills.

Practical payment options. When consumers are faced with a massive bill, giving them a lighted path to the end of the daunting tunnel can mean all the difference in on-time payments. Not all consumers are the same and some need more financial guidance and planning than others. If we help consumers make a plan that works with their income, healthcare systems are more likely to see payments coming through.

These steps may be familiar to you because they're not that different from how your credit card company already works. This process works for healthcare billing as well, since it is the approach my company follows for patient billing.

Let's talk about the results
Remember that Mad*Pow study from earlier? Take a deeper look into it and something else rises to the top: 93 percent of patients satisfied with billing practices are also satisfied with clinical experiences. That's a direct result of eliminating patient confusion to provide a better clinical experience.

The correlation is clear. If you want to provide a good clinical experience, you must also provide a good billing experience. To provide a good billing experience, you must develop a consumer-centric focus.
Adopting a new billing system that is focused on the consumer's needs will ultimately save healthcare organizations time and money, and give consumers an experience that won't send them running away from the doctor until they absolutely need care.

It's time to recognize that the healthcare billing experience is a critical part of the overall patient experience. It's time to transform the healthcare billing experience once and for all.

<< Beth Griffin is with Healthcare Payment Systems and has 30+ years of experience in financial services and healthcare payments in a variety of leadership roles. Follow @HPSOneBill on Twitter. >>

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