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Understanding the realities of patient payments

Understanding the realities of patient payments

Concerns about the cost of medical care and ability to pay are affecting consumers—now more than ever before.

Today, 64% of Americans are living paycheck to paycheck and 67% of patients worry about unexpected bills. Plus, with nearly half of consumers having difficulty understanding what they owe, patients who are concerned about cost may end up delaying care altogether due to the confusion.

To keep your health organization poised for future success, it’s essential to understand the stressors patients have when it comes to medical services. Offering compassion when it comes to payments, keeping the cost of care transparent and making it easier to pay can help retain patients and drive preference for your health organization.

Learn how taking a proactive, empathetic approach to collections can pay off in the long run.

Empower patients about payments

As a health provider, it’s important to be straightforward about the cost of care and make it easier for patients to understand their medical bill. In fact, in a recent Waystar Consumer Price Transparency Survey, 81% of surveyed patients stated they would more actively pursue care if they knew the out-of-pocket cost upfront.

Improve your patients’ financial literacy by having upfront conversations about cost from the start. That means anticipating their questions prior to the point-of-service, so patients feel confident they won’t be caught off guard by a surprise bill.

Teach your frontline team members to embrace financial conversations with consumers as well. Patients will appreciate open, honest communication about what they owe, and it will help them fully understand their financial responsibility for care.

When navigating the payment process, don’t assume patients know financial terms like deductible and co-pay. Take a few moments to explain their balance and the payment process. This approach can build trust and help patients embrace responsibility for payments.

Make it a point to lead your organization using a compassionate financial approach. Even after understanding a cost estimate, patients may not have the means to make payments. Give patients flexible payment options that fit their budget to help prevent bad debt.

When providers focus on empathy throughout the payment process, it’s easy to create a trusting partnership with your patients while ensuring consistent collections for medical care.

Investigate self-pay options

Many patients may not understand their current medical insurance coverage. Looking for self-pay options or hidden coverage is another way you can show support to patients.

Make it a common practice for your team members to investigate self-pay and ask follow-up questions about coverage. Some areas of opportunity include:

  • Emergency room admittance or arrival by ambulance. Never bill a patient until it is confirmed they are a self-payer. For example, a person may simply not have insurance cards with them or may arrive to the ED unconscious during a medical emergency.
  • Clearing up confusion about medical coverage. Some patients may be unsure of their carrier or coverage if they have recently started a new job. Others could not even realize they are eligible for COBRA or workers’ compensation.
  • Taking care of costs with retroactive Medicaid. Medicaid coverage may be applied retroactively up to three months prior to the application, which could be used towards the cost of recent medical services.
  • Double checking for dual coverage. Always ask patients if they have a secondary medical plan, such as Medicare as well as a private plan.
  • Assisting patients who are disabled. Due to a lengthy paperwork process, it can be difficult to determine if a patient who is disabled has filed an appropriate claim.
  • Removing the guesswork about workers’ compensation. Don’t forget to check if a patient is covered by their employer’s workers’ compensation.
  • Verifying eligibility for charity screening. High deductibles and co-pays may incentivize some patients to withhold insurance information to qualify for charity coverage. Be on the look out for this issue when it comes time to pay.

Keep in mind, it costs two times as much to collect from patients as it does from payers. Making finding coverage for patients a common practice can help providers streamline collections and built long-lasting, trusting partnerships with their patients.

Continue providing compassionate care

With the rising worries consumers have about medical costs, keeping the payment process simple, clear and convenient is key. It’s important to empower patients by being transparent about costs upfront, providing accurate pricing and personalized billing options.

Today, consumers are looking for modern and convenient payment options, such as electronic billing and online bill pay. Reducing paper delivery can also decrease the days to pay, helping providers receive collections faster.

Ensure your billing statements have a simple design that stands out and offers flexible ways to pay. Best practices on patient statements include:

  • Contrasting colors to highlight the most important information, such as the balance due.
  • Easy-to-understand graphics to not add confusion to the statement.
  • Patient friendly language without medical jargon and CPT codes.
  • Consolidated charges, if possible, to make it easy for consumers to understand.
  • Personalized payment options and plans to fit the patient’s budget.
  • Respecting patient preferences, such as communication method and language.
  • Offering multiple ways to pay with a comprehensive list of options.

Ensure safety + security

Outdated payment collections can lead patients to feel uneasy about paying online. Consumers don’t want to be at risk for identity theft and other types of fraud when paying for medical care.

Be sure your health organization stays on top of the newest, most secure payment options, such as chip cards and contactless payments. Prioritize payment solutions with end-to-end encryption to protect your patients and payments from fraud.

Expand your offerings of secure, self-service payment options like guest pay, tokenization and Apple Pay or Google Pay. This can help consumers quickly and confidently pay online without putting their personal information at risk.

Whether you are focused on boosting patient retention or adding flexible ways to pay, Waystar offers end-to-end solutions to unify and streamline your entire revenue cycle. Our platform provides a smarter, simpler patient financial journey and cutting-edge tools to build lasting trust with patients.

Find this post helpful? Check out The three P’s of patient consumerism.

 

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