How to improve self-pay revenue: 5 steps

Amid the financial effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, it is more crucial than ever that hospitals and health systems collect payments from patients in a timely and efficient way. Creating success in this area requires a more humanized revenue cycle and a focus on helping patients afford their medical care.

This is what presenters concluded in an April 7 webinar, hosted by Becker's Hospital Review and sponsored by revenue cycle company HBCS. 

During the webinar, presenters revealed five best practices to improve self-pay revenue.

Presenters were:

  • Bonnie Causey, director of revenue operations and patient accounting at Health First, a four-hospital health system based in Rockledge, Fla.
  • Stephen Wing, vice president of operations at HBCS
  • John Rogers, assistant vice president of self-pay operations at HBCS

1. Strengthen patient access processes. Ms. Causey recommends enhancing patient registration so it is accurate and comprehensive; uses expertise of specially trained financial counselors; calculates patient cost estimates and collects payment before medical care; and ensures discussions about patient financial responsibility occur at the beginning of the care journey. Her health system, Health First, offers complete registration in a no-contact environment. Ms. Causey explained: "This allows patients to complete the registration on their schedule, in the comfort of their own home. They can complete the registration work but also receive a cost estimate, sign all their forms, pay patient responsibility, all contactless." Her organization uses software to verify identity, address and insurance information before patients arrive for service and correct information as necessary. Financial counselors are available to have financial discussions before hospitalized patients are discharged. 

2. Use screening and propensity-to-pay scoring workflows. Mr. Rogers said it's crucial that strategies to strengthen patient access are complemented by screening and propensity-to-pay scoring workflows. This includes using integrated technology and expertise to identify the patient's likelihood of paying their bill, confirm bankruptcies and screen for insurance eligibility, to ensure patients don't have additional coverage available. "The goal is to make sure you're having the right financial conversation with the right patient at the right time in order to maximize payment, and ultimately brand loyalty and patient satisfaction," said Mr. Rogers. The right conversation ensures patients are offered payment plans tailored to their life needs, he said. 

3. Communications and the digital patient experience. Mr. Rogers said hospitals and health systems should also have a robust patient communications platform that allows patients to engage with the organization through the channel they find most comfortable and convenient. This means providing digital and print communications options, such as secure texting, print statements and electronic notifications, and payment sources, including an online patient portal. Ms. Causey said Health First redesigned statements to be more aesthetically pleasing and streamlined processes for the uninsured and those needing financial assistance. Next, Health First wants to consolidate physician statements with hospital statements on one bill.

4. Identify effective outsourcing options. To be successful with self-pay revenue, hospitals and health systems should identify effective outsourcing options, according to Ms. Causey. She recommends a partner that is collaborative and flexible. She also recommends one that focuses on the organizational and patient needs, as well as one that is willing to proactively identify the right tools for patients to easily resolve outstanding balances. Ms. Causey said keeping all of this in mind will result in increased collections and increased patient satisfaction and success for the hospital or health system. "The ultimate goal is to have a partnership that is a win-win win for all. The patient, the organization and the outsourcing partner," she said.

5. Establish optimal workflows for charity care and customized financial assistance. HBCS' self-pay approach for hospitals and health systems involves centralized workforce management responsibilities and associated technology, as well as communications and engagement, focus on quality and productivity management and monitoring. He said this approach allows "front-line customer service supervisors to focus on employee engagement." Technology resources, such as speech and voice analytics from patients and customer service agents, provide tools to gain insight into patients' reasons for nonpayment, as well as the effectiveness of agents in resolving patients' questions. 

To access the webinar recording, click here. For more information about HBCS, click here

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