With rising health care costs, insurance companies are sharing the increased costs with patients in the form of high deductibles and greater copayments. With higher patient responsibility, collecting patient copays has become an important element in physician practices revenue cycle management (RCM), which is being increasingly outsourced to medical billing companies. Failing to collect patient payments would result not only in lost revenue but also increased costs and lost staff time. A white paper published by Athena Health points out that the administrative costs for collecting payment from a patient are twice that of collecting from a payer.
In a recent nationwide survey by Porter Research, 63% of the respondents – practice administrators, medical billing managers, and c-suite executives – cited patient payments and billing as the key RCM challenges that health care organizations need to address. The main patient accountability issues that the participants struggle with, according to the survey, are:
- patients’ inability to pay
- problems associated with educating patients about their financial responsibility
- their organization’s payment policy
- Slow-paying patients
Given this scenario, it is crucial for health care practices and organizations to take proactive steps to implement strategies optimize patient payments.
Methods to Improve Patient Collections
- Choice of payment options: Make it easier for patients to pay by offering them a wide variety of options such as point of service, phone, web, credit card, debit card, and check.
- Payment anytime: Implement an online bill payment option that will enable patient to pay anytime, at their convenience.
- Payment in installments: Accept payment in installments from patients in financial difficulty, but have a defined payment plan to ensure compliance.
- Communicate: Have materials and strategies in place to communicate the practice’s payment policy.
- Educate patients: Train staff to communicate and be transparent with patients about their costs, options and financial responsibilities as stated in their insurance contract.
- Automated reminders: Send out automated reminders to patients that co-pays and previous balances are due at the time of service.
Outsourcing medical billing is a proven way to increase practice cash flow and collect payments faster – from both payers and patients.
Manage Patient Accountability with Outsourced Medical Billing
Professional medical billing and coding companies build payment processing into the practice workflow. A reliable company will work as an extension of the practice to help physicians manage patient accountability, collect patient dues, and get paid appropriately and faster. Physicians can easily track payments with the reports they provide on key metrics on proportions due from patients and receipts by service type, location and payment type.
A medical billing company makes the patient collections process smoother with insurance verification services. Dedicated insurance verification specialists verify private, government and third party insurance information, including eligibility, out-of-pocket costs, prescription coverage and patient portions before services are provided. With this information, practice staff can inform patients about their benefit coverage details and collect payment upon check-in. They will also obtain insurance preauthorization when required to ensure proper claim submission and timely reimbursement. Most processes are managed electronically, adding to efficiency.
Research by the Medical Group Management Association (MGMA) Practice Perspectives on Patient Payments found that physicians are reluctant to initiate discussions with patients about their financial responsibilities and payment plan options. A reliable medical billing service company can help eliminate the provider/patient payment discussion. For the physician, the other advantages of this partnership include – lower operating costs, improved cash flow, enhanced efficiency and productivity, greater collections, and lower write-offs.