Finances and the revenue cycle can be a high source of stress for providers, who let’s be honest, would much rather focus on patient care. However, effectively managing a practice's revenue is crucial to actually being able to continue to provide that care. One of the most unpredictable phases of the revenue cycle is collecting patient responsibility, which often results from the high variance in payment methods as well as hesitation to pay due to a lack of understanding of insurance systems. Simply put, many patients don’t know what they owe and why.
According to the American Association of Family Physicians, only 14% of adults understand key components of their insurance plans. This confusion and uncertainty can often make it difficult to determine a patient’s financial responsibility at the time of a visit, leading to even more frustration when they get a bill in the mail months later that they don’t understand. Estimation tools and insurance cards can help ease this uncertainty or to point a practice in the right direction, but ultimately most patients end up in the dark when it comes to what they will owe in the end.
Traditionally, many practices end up providing services for free, collecting a small insurance co-pay, or sometimes not even that, and then opting to bill the patient later, after collecting from insurance first. The problem is the process of settling with and collecting from insurance companies can take days, weeks, or even months and by that time patients are far less likely to pay for bills they receive long after services rendered. In fact, more than 60% of patients surveyed by InstaMed reported they would “consider switching providers for a better healthcare payment experience,” which includes upfront patient responsibility, eligibility, and the ability to pay with their preferred payment methods.
With this in mind, it’s hard to believe less than 25% of physician practices have an eligibility and estimation tool in place to assist their practices in maximizing revenue, according to Healthcare Finance News. By providing real-time patient responsibility estimates, providers can increase patient confidence and are more likely to collect the full amount they are owed for their services. Without an eligibility solution in place, practices could potentially be missing out on between 30-50% of their patient revenue.
Speed and transparency make a huge difference when it comes to collecting patient payments. Giving your patients the tools to make the process as simple as possible is key to not only collecting but collecting quickly with high patient satisfaction. Many practices still rely on mailed statements and/or in-person payments, such as cash, check, or credit card, which can be a major hindrance, especially when it comes to younger generations.
Gen Z, which are those born between 1995 and 2012, is expected to account for an estimated 61 million new employees in the global workforce in the next decade. Why is this important? Well, the majority of Gen Z have never lived without the internet, smartphones, and immediate access to information and products. With an influx of Gen Z patients, the expectation is that practices make it easy to receive and pay for care. If it’s not, they may seek care elsewhere.
It’s much easier to collect payments when the patient is standing in front of you, but even if they’re not, the quicker a practice requests payment, the more likely patients are to pay it. Recent trends in expected payment options have shown nearly 50% of patients would prefer to pay their medical bills using contactless or paperless payment options. Practices using paper statements introduce significant lag into their collection systems by relying on mail carriers and printing/packing services. Recent improvements in payment processors and the technology they offer have made it possible to send statements and payment requests in real-time to speed up collections and boost patient satisfaction and confidence.
The last part of the equation is making sure everyone in the practice is on the same page regarding patients’ financial status. The fewer systems involved, the less room for error and inefficiency. From patient intake to collecting payments, it’s important to be able to do everything in one place without having to log into multiple systems to piece together information.