Next steps for handling patient collections
As we continue to monitor state and Federal updates, we know what a difficult time this is for hospitals and their patients. We appreciate the incredible efforts of your staff to provide clinical care to our communities.
As a revenue cycle leader for almost 50 years now, we have experienced significant changes to the economy that have had devastating effects for many of the patients we have served. Our approach has been and will continue to be a quick response to fast-moving and sometimes unclear legislative change with specific recommendations that will address the current climate.
Because we own and manage every aspect of our operation, from our print and mail center, to our contact center, we can rapidly institute changes to ensure a thoughtful message is conveyed. To ensure patients remain informed and connected during this unprecedented time, here are our recommendations for hospitals:
Add specific messaging to all statements and letters so patients know you are attentive to their needs.
Mail is more important than ever right now, and patients will hold on to paper documents in the days and weeks to come. This communication will become a valued resource as patients consider all of their bills and make critical decisions about household management.
- Communicate that you care about your patients’ current situation and emphasize that payment plans, financial assistance, and discounts are available.
Resist the urge to cease all communications, as now is the time to communicate with patients about unpaid balances more than ever.
Over the years we have seen facilities cease communications during turbulent times, and it has created more confusion for patients, especially when statements resume. Right now, every patient is in planning mode, trying to comprehend the magnitude of change in the world and the personal implications. Time and time again, we have heard from the millions of patients we serve that more information is better than none. Patients want to know what to expect.
- If your facility is offering a 30- or 60-day grace period of payment deferral, communicate this to your patients.
- If your facility is able to offer a pay plan for all balances over $100, tell your patients about this option right away.
- If you can, modify your financial assistance policy for the short-term and let your patients know of this benefit.
Offer the service of Financial Care Consultants to ensure patients can have a live dialogue with someone to discuss their personal situation.
Use professional financial care consultants who are skilled in communicating with patients about financial hardship with empathy. During a time when call wait times are steadily increasing, prioritize personal service by making professionals available to discuss balances, possible payment options, and other means of financial assistance.
- As a healthcare provider, patients will lean on you for clinical and financial care during this difficult time. Help meet the needs of your patients by providing a personal touch.
Use an IVR system to communicate important healthcare messages.
Whether it is an announcement about available tests, vaccines, capacity, or new patient payment options, automated messaging is a valuable tool for communicating with patients. Consider all of the ways you can broadcast relevant news.
- Modify your existing IVR scripts to communicate new payment options or alternatives to payment, such as deferments. If you are not using IVR messaging, we understand from patients that this information, if personalized, is helpful.
Promote technology to simplify the payment experience and deliver personal service.
While your patients may have more time at home, they continue to need easy ways to manage bills. Patient payment portals, online payment tools, email/text reminders, all help to simplify the payment process.
- Ensure your patient portals are updated with new payment options and a number to reach a Financial Care Consultant for personalized services.
Implement a benevolent collection program as a replacement to your bad debt agency placement.
While we know the spread of the Coronavirus will subside, the financial impact of the virus will last much longer. As food services, airlines, and non-essential businesses have closed, we know people will be out of work for a while and paying bills will remain a challenge.
- This period of financial instability requires changes to the traditional bad debt referral at day 120. Rather than risking harm to a patient’s credit for extenuating circumstances, put into practice a benevolent program designed exclusively for accounts aged 120-180.
These recommendations can be modified and implemented based on each hospital’s local situation. Contact us to talk through options for your hospital.