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Opportunities to Improve Patient Collections: A Patient Visit – Deconstructed

April 8, 2019

It’s easy to say that it’s the patient’s responsibility to understand their insurance benefits and limitations, but let’s face facts – they don’t!

And that’s ok!  What if we told you that you may be able to vastly improve patient collections by taking a fresh, positive look at how your practice approaches its most valued asset, the patient.

Improve Patient Collections at Every Visit

Getting paid in healthcare today is like running an obstacle course; the growing list of hurdles – high-deductible health care plans, changing regulations, etc.  And patients feel the pinch with rising monthly premiums, deductibles, and co-insurance.

So how can we alleviate some of this concern and strengthen our relationship with patients?

Revenue Cycle Management

We believe the answer is to focus on patient experience and customer service while developing a strategic relationship with a partner specializing in Revenue Cycle Management (RCM) and medical billing services.

There is an assumption by patients that quality of care is standard, so how they often define value is through excellent customer service, convenience, timely appointments, and ease of access.  Let us show you how Enhanced Revenue Solutions (ERS) can partner with your practice to provide RCM freeing you up to exceed your patients’ expectations.

Deconstructing a Patient Visit

Every patient encounter is an opportunity to educate and strengthen a patient’s bond with your practice.  How many opportunities for improved patient/client service go unanswered due to RCM?

Transparency and consistency is the name of the game.

Foundationally Speaking…

Your Financial Policy

Creating a strong foundation for an effective RCM program begins with having a well-articulated financial policy that addresses practice and patient obligations.

Most practices today have a thorough financial policy.  What they don’t do is take the time to truly educate their patients.  It’s important that this process isn’t rushed and that the patient’s concerns and questions are carefully and thoughtfully addressed.

Those of us who have spent time in a medical practice know that patients don’t always read the policy at check-in, but rather sign it and move on.  This may be due to feeling rushed or because they are stressed about their appointment.  Whatever the reason, it’s our obligation to slow down the process.

One way is to provide access to the financial policy through multiple avenues, including:

  • On your website.
  • Summarized in practice marketing materials.
  • When appointments are made.

Now It’s Time to Train Your Team

Spending time developing a well-defined financial policies component to your ongoing training pays big dividends in the long run.  Undertrained staff who don’t collect co-pays and deductibles at the time of service or who don’t verify insurance benefits correctly, lead to Accounts Receivable problems!

Here are a few things to remember:

  • It is possible to be sensitive and assertive at the same time.
    • Remember that financial issues are difficult for people to talk about and something that’s rushed through without making eye contact.
    • Training should include tools, scripts, role-playing to ensure staff members develop a level of comfort with the process.
    • On-going support for employees that struggle.
  • Oversight and accountability is an administrative responsibility; the leadership of the practice needs to set the tone and expectation…and follow-up as needed.
  • Include training on the “why” – employees will be much more receptive if they understand why they are being asked to communicate and enforce a policy.

The Scheduling Call

This is our first hands-on opportunity to begin the education process and improve patient collections.

If time allows, mail or electronically transmit admissions forms and financial policies to patients ahead of appointments.  This accomplishes several things:

  • Gives the scheduling person an opportunity to explain the forms being transmitted and why they’re important.
  • Allows the patient time to fill out their forms without being rushed.
  • Enhances the quality of the information received; patients can be thoughtful in their responses.

However, if the patient’s appointment is scheduled too soon for the forms to be mailed, the scheduling person can let the patient know what to bring and a brief review of what they’ll be signing at the appointment.

Patient Arrives at the Practice

Once the patient arrives, they should be well informed of what’s expected financially and pre-notified of amounts due.  Now your welcome team kicks into high gear; information is collected, forms signed, and insurance is electronically verified (or double-checked).  Also, if applicable, triple check to ensure prior authorizations have been completed and the terms communicated to the patient.

A Dedicated Financial Counselor

No matter how much pre-planning and educating you have tried to do, questions always arise, circumstances change, or expert help is needed.  If you don’t already have one, consider a dedicated Financial Counselor who is educated and incentivized to guide patients through all aspects of the payment process and to liaise with the RCM team.  They are worth the investment.

Patient Enters the Clinical Area

Before the patient enters the clinical area, all of their financial questions should have been addressed.  Everyone benefits when the provider and the patient can focus on the visit at hand.

It is important to remove your providers from economic discussions for two reasons:

  • Continuity of information
  • Providers can concentrate on providing quality care

Patient Returns to the Reception Area to Conclude the Visit

As the visit comes to an end, the patient may require follow-up appointments for additional services or procedures that they weren’t expecting.  The foundation you’ve built will help maintain a positive relationship now to talk about any other additional options and issue-specific financial guidance.

As the patient leaves the practice, RCM begins in earnest.  Procedure and diagnosis coding must be accurately done meeting all compliance standards, claims filed with insurance companies and third-party payers, requests for additional information and denials processed…it can all be overwhelming.

With a strategic partner like ERS, you can breathe a sigh of relief.  Our highly-specialized team of innovative and dedicated professionals can create a customized program that will enhance your revenue generation and improve patient collections allowing you to focus on your patients.

Contact ERS today and we can demonstrate how to improve your revenue management process.

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