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Pre-visit planning 101: Boost your patient financial experience (in 3 steps)

Pre-visit planning 101: Boost your patient financial experience (in 3 steps)


This is the third post in a new Waystar blog series: 7 steps to sharpen your healthcare revenue cycle.

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Seven steps for better healthcare revenue cycle optimization – four facts to know before you start

Before looking at the patient financial experience, it’s key to understand one fact: patient financial responsibility has increased significantly in the past few years, and it’s only projected to grow more.  

With a staggering amount of patient bad debt on the horizon, it’s crucial to execute a reliable pre-visit clearance process. The good news: executing this process is also vital to creating a positive patient financial experience 

Patient financial experience tip: 

1. Estimate + explain

Some aspects of financial clearance are well-known, such as verifying: 

  • Insurance coverage 
  • Benefits eligibility 
  • Financial responsibility, including unmet deductibles 

But today, a successful financial-clearance process hinges on something new: transparently communicating this information to the patient. Keeping a patient in the dark for weeks or months about their charges not only leads to dissatisfaction; it also leads to nonpayment. Yet murky information, unexpected charges, and failure to communicate in a timely manner are all too common today.  

To empower a patient, you must focus on price explanation in addition to price transparency. Talk about financial responsibility — before the service is rendered, at the time of service, or as soon as possible afterward.  

a. Pre-visit process

For a pre-visit process to be successful, submitting charges to patients can’t be your last step. In order to transform the clearance process, you must estimate and communicate the patient’s financial responsibility, including any unmet deductibles, before service. Ideally, that communication will include multiple payment options, such as text to pay, payment plans, and financial assistance. When patients have information and options, they can focus on a process that yields positive results instead of on the expense. 

b. Financial aid

If a patient can’t take on their financial responsibility, try to offer other pathways. Transition the patient into a financial assistance program, or offer discounts to those experiencing financial hardship. Keeping the lines of communication open is especially important for patients who are struggling.  

c. Transparency

The value of patient-physician communication is long established in clinical matters, but it can also play an important role financially. Telling the patient about problems, such as difficulty confirming their insurance coverage, reduces denials and improves cash flow. Furthermore, those efforts will facilitate compliance with state and federal regulations for price transparency.  

PAtient financial experience TIP: 

2. Rebrand collections

To create a successful pre-visit financial clearance process, savvy healthcare organizations are restructuring collections. Many are migrating their efforts from expensive, largely ineffective units based in the business office to pre-service collections teams.  

dots connected by a line on the left side all jumbled up and organized on the right to show how to properly set up a business office

While these teams may require the same amount of staff resources as the business office, they exact a much higher amount of collections. If you can make this move, consider a change in title — your collectors become “financial advocates,” a more patient-friendly term. 

PAtient financial experience TIP: 

3. Combine forces

If moving your patient-collections efforts to a pre-service basis is beyond your reach today, consider combining your business office and scheduling teams. 


  • The business office places outbound calls all day to patients who owe money (often with little success in reaching them), while 
  • The scheduling team accepts calls from patients all day long.  

Eliminate this strict division of duties. Train your schedulers to identify balances and ask for payment via credit card. If you can invest in this process, it will quickly create a positive return.  

Supplement your efforts by collecting from patients when they self-schedule, and when they check in for their appointment. Even if money doesn’t exchange hands, you’ve started to set patients’ expectations that you are serious about collecting the money they owe. 

Want to know more about optimizing your rev cycle?  

Seven steps for better healthcare revenue cycle optimization – four facts to know before you start

Ready to learn how Waystar can help you build a better patient financial experience?

Schedule a demo 

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