How to prepare for the rise of healthcare consumerism

Nowadays, people choose where they want to receive care the same way they pick where they’d like to eat or shop. It’s important to learn what folks in the service industry have known for a long time: In order to succeed, you must manage the customer experience from start to finish. Patients have a lot of options for health care providers. In order to thrive you need to succeed at both patient acquisition, as well as retention.
 
Let’s look at the story of Joe. Joe made the mistake of forgetting to put on oven mitts when he picked up a hot plate of lasagna. A few things come to mind for where he’s going to get his hand treated: Where is the nearest facility? What are the reviews like online? Is the cost transparent and affordable? As you can see, your facility is analyzed well before the patient even walks through your doors. In order to get Joe to pick your facility, you’re going to need to check multiple, if not all the above boxes, or he’s going to be heading to one of your competitors.
 
Picking a convenient location and providing an exceptional experience is critical, but in this piece i’m going to hone in on the topic of price transparency. Patients are craving a better understanding of what they’re paying for and why. It all starts with consumer-friendly billing, which begins with engaging the patient at the point-of-service. People want to have an idea of how much their visit is going to cost them the same way we glance at the tag before purchasing clothes or the menu before ordering food. This not only gives them a better chance of making sure they can afford their treatment, it also forces you to better understand the costs associated with running your business. Knowing your margins allows you to charge competitively, which is key for patient retention.

By beginning the patient’s financial experience at the point-of-service you also open yourself up to being able to collect part of the payment upfront. I’ve worked with numerous providers over the past 7 years that I spent in revenue cycle management. It’s far too common for facilities to be concerned with recouping their expenses. By implementing upfront payments, you put yourself in a much better position to cover essential costs and stay out of the red.
 
Now that patients have more choice on where to receive care, the pressure is on you to deliver the best complete experience. This starts before they even arrive at your facility and doesn’t end until the bill is paid. Are you up to the challenge? 

Jake Myers

(619) 840 - 7366

Jake@medpilot.com

3 strategies to engage patients to pay their medical bills

Is keeping your patients happy important to you? How about increasing collection rates? Going to go out on a limb that at least one of these is critical to your business.

Utilizing a clear, fast, and simple process is key to getting your patients to pay their medical bills. If you can engage your patients with thoughtful communication and education throughout the revenue cycle, then you will boost the chances of them paying their bills significantly.

Abide by the simple strategies outlined below and you’ll improve retention, boost collection rates, and increase overall patient experience.

 

1. Continuous, personalized communication with your patients

Imagine if you didn’t get your check from a restaurant until 30-60 days after your delicious meal. You’d be a little hesitant to pay, even if you had had all the best intentions to do so when you ordered your food. By this point, after all, you have probably forgotten how good your steak was. Of course, you do not want to hound your patients with debt collector tactics right out of the gate. However, updating them on their bill status during their account’s “lifecycle” can be very helpful. For example, your insurance company has received your charges, your insurance has paid their portion, and your bill is being calculated and will be sent over in the next couple days.

Compassion, education, and advocacy are all important ingredients to successful patient communications. If affordability is a problem for your patients, improved communications can help them plan for a better financial settlement.

You may also find it useful to segment your patients based on demographics to ensure that you are addressing them in ways that will resonate. After all, kids don’t talk to each other in the same way that parents do, so why would you speak to both age groups in the same way? Informing a male millennial to make sure they pay off their bill before tuning into the new Game of Thrones might just do the trick. Also, a 70 year old may not opt for a text message alert over a letter, but a college-aged kid sure would.

 

2. Optimize your online payment experience

Most providers have implemented an online bill pay option by now. Placing a “Pay your bill” button on your website is a great start, but you don’t have to stop there.You should measure and optimize your site in order to hone in on the optimal online digital payment approach.

What I learned from working at a leading digital health marketing agency on Madison Avenue is that it is important to continually improve your website, not just because we could then charge you astronomically high fees, but because you can’t know that you have the perfect strategic approach without first testing out various strategies for engagement.

 

3. Focus on patient satisfaction

“A recent study showed that only one-third of patients who are dissatisfied with the billing process paid their bills in full. Conversely, three-quarters of satisfied patients completely settled their debt, and 95% remained loyal to the organization.  For this reason alone, it is critical to make sure patient payment strategies enhance the patient experience and satisfaction." - Stuart Hanson, Senior Vice President for Change Healthcare.

Focus on the patient and everything else will follow. Before giving out a generic survey to your patients, sit down and map out on what aspects of their overall experience you want feedback. Use the survey as a tool to identify and clarify which facets of your organization you can improve. If you treat your patients as consumers, they will be happier, and ultimately, your collections will be higher and your costs will be lower. Additionally, patient satisfaction scores are now directly tied to government reimbursement.

In the modern era, it is essential that healthcare providers know how to properly engage their patients. Feel free to shoot me a note if you’d like to discuss ways your company could improve in this area.

 

Matt Buder Shapiro

(216) 337 - 0461

Matt@medpilot.com

3 Reasons Patients Aren’t Paying Their Bills

If you struggle with getting your patients to pay their bills, don’t worry -- you’re not alone. The average healthcare provider only collects 17 cents on the dollar when resolving patient balances. But if you think it's just that your patients can't afford their bills, you may be missing the full story.

A McKinsey study found that "74 percent of insured consumers indicated they are both able and willing to pay their out-of-pocket medical expenses up to $1,000 per year.”

So why aren’t patients paying us?

I’ve spoken to hundreds of patients who haven’t paid their bills and yes, some of the reasons are creative - even humorous. I've heard everything from people who didn't like the color of the wallpaper in the doctor’s office, or those who thought it was annoying that the receptionist chomped her gum, or the patient who just moved from Canada and didn't realize their healthcare wasn't covered. 

But there were a few themes that kept consistently coming up:

1. The patient didn't receive or realize that they had the bill in the first place.

Providers often assume that once a statement has been mailed, the patient will immediately view and respond to it. However, if your patient population is on the younger side, there's a pretty good likelihood that they don't check their mailbox frequently, or that their bill is sandwiched between promotional magazines and spam letters they'll never read. But millennials check their smartphones 43 times a day on average, so that's the place to reach them if you really want your bill to be seen.

Sometimes, the bill hasn't even made it to their home. Patients are often filling out paperwork quickly while they’re waiting and can easily miss a line or mess up their address information. Or if they've moved recently, they may not remember to update their address with each doctor's office. Registration plays a key role in patient billing and collections. Providers need to make sure they are capturing as much valid patient information as possible.

2. The patient didn't understand the bill. 

People are unlikely to fork over their hard-earned money if they don't understand where it is going. And good luck finding anyone -- even trained professionals -- who doesn't find medical bills completely confusing. It's not uncommon to have one visit split up into multiple bills -- covering the doctor, the facility, the lab, even the anesthesia professional.

On top of that, high deductible health plans have increased both confusion and costs for patients. Patients know they've been paying their monthly premiums and then are baffled to find that there are also out-of-pocket expenses for a procedure. Even if they have the financial means, it doesn't mean they are prepared to pay a bill that they don't understand. We've spoken to many affluent patients with payment issues and heard the same motif repeatedly: they didn't understand the bill, and they didn't understand what insurance was supposed to cover.

3. The patient was offered limited payment options.

For providers, sometimes getting a little money is better than getting no money. As one said to us recently, “obviously, we are looking to collect on the full bill. But in certain situations, it’s just not feasible. In those cases, we’d happily receive a portion of the bill instead of nothing.”  

Allowing your patients to use payment plans and offering discounts could dramatically increase the amount you are able to collect. Make sure to utilize the new functions that your Practice Management System and Electronic Health Record have. There are also great collection tools in the market that can really give you a leg up.

And with a few small improvements, you can materially increase your bottom line. Of course, there will always be individuals who will not pay their balances, even with the most effective billing operation. However, the more that you can keep out of the collections agency process, the more you can avoid paying large collections fees and potentially harming the trust you've built with your patients.

MedPilot can help you tackle these 3 common concerns, and better your relationship with your patients in the process. Reach out to me for a free consultation and we can figure out how to make patient billing and collections a more profitable aspect of your company.

 

Jake Myers

(619) 840 - 7366

Jake@medpilot.com

 

How the change in health insurance plans has magnified the importance of patient collections.

It’s 2016, and the days of insurance dollars dominating the payor mix have officially ended. America’s Health Insurance Plans (AHIP) expects out-of-pocket payments for insured patients to increase 68% in five years. In some hospitals, the rate of bad debt for insured patients is increasing by over 30% per year. So yes, our actions as healthcare providers will need to change.

When I started my job in revenue cycle consulting, we focused on insurance billing and collections. While we all know collecting from insurance companies isn’t a walk in the park, it is significantly more orderly and predictable than patient collections, which was mostly just gravy on top of your bottom line. However, over the past couple years, the growth in size and amount of high deductible health plans (HDHPs) has taken patient responsibility from hard to ignore to absolutely essential.

Healthcare providers have spent many years focusing on building competencies around payer payments, but now they must develop effective patient collection strategies in order to maintain their profit margin.

Now that a lot of Americans are responsible for a majority of their medical expenses, providers must understand the issues and strategies for managing this debt. The change towards HDHPs means that our billing and collection strategies directly influence patient satisfaction, timely payments and ultimately the ability to provide quality care.

So how can we make a difference? It’s not too complex and much of it has already been proven in other industries. We need to:

  • Bring clarity into the situation: Make sure the patient has an understanding of their insurance coverage before and throughout the process.

  • Provide payment options: Give your patients flexibility when it comes to paying their bill. Every patient and insurance plan is different. Don’t pretend like they are all the same.

  • Engage your patients with humanistic communication: Maximize the likelihood of reaching and engaging your patients by personalizing your communication to make it truly resonate. For example, a 25 year old will respond more favorably to a text or email than the traditional phone or letter.

I’ve spent the past 7 years addressing these concerns. I’m in the business of helping others find a solution that best fits their situation and their companies needs. If you are a healthcare provider who is being affected by patient billing and collections or other revenue cycle related issues, please reach out and lets find a solution for you.

Jake Myers

619-840-7366

Jake@medpilot.com