Three steps to optimizing collections and avoiding patient payment pitfalls

Patient payment responsibility is increasing at a rapid pace: the average out-of-pocket cost per patient rose almost 255 percent during the last 10 years according to the Kaiser Family Foundation [i]. As a result, many healthcare organizations are starting to re-engineer or even re-imagine all of their processes from scheduling, to check out and billing follow-up, in order to keep pace with what patients need to pay for their care. At a minimum, patients have more questions about their higher financial responsibilities and generally want conveniences such as easy-to-use online payment options.

Whether you are just starting to update processes or are looking to fine-tune, here are three ways to respond to changing patient needs while optimizing payment collections.

1. Educate staff and build consensus for a new patient collections model

Healthcare leaders understand their organizations can no longer remain financially healthy if they write off uncollected patient payments, but creating the necessary change can be difficult. As you develop new processes and implement new technology, it’s important to educate your staff and build consensus for these changes. First, your team needs education regarding why you’re making the changes and how critical patient payments are to your organization’s viability. Next, the team needs targeted training regarding how their processes will change and how to handle the new scenarios they’ll encounter.

As you implement training, front-office staff is especially important. They’re now on the front lines of patient collections and will be presenting estimates, reviewing patient responsibility and taking payments. In many cases, these tasks are much different than anything they’ve been asked to do before, and as a result, they may be uncomfortable and unsure. Before launching new processes, write scripts for your front-office staff and then hold a dress rehearsal to role-play the common scenarios they’ll experience prior to and at time of service.

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