What’s the most compassionate area of your healthcare practice? If you’re like most medical professionals, the answer is on the clinical side (as it should be).
The encounter room is the number one place where providers need to be kind and empathetic to their patients. However, it’s far from the only part of the office where those values are important.
In the back office, unfortunately, compassion can easily fall off the radar. Once EOBs and billing statements come into play, the situation changes from its focus on the physical to the financial: From the provider group’s perspective, billing disputes between patients and providers come down the numbers. So when expected patient-payment income doesn’t arrive, non-paying patients typically get sent to collections without a conversation (and the medical office lets an agency take the situation from there).
But is that approach appropriate in today’s healthcare environment? According to Kaiser Family Foundation, 90% of consumers buying insurance via an individual marketplace choose high-deductible healthcare plans (HDHPs). In addition, 24% of employees were enrolled in employer-sponsored high-deductible plans in 2015, up from just 4% in 2006.
That shift means that patients’ financial responsibility for their care and treatment is going up. Along with it should the level of compassion afforded to individuals who are struggling to meet their obligations to your practice. The reasons are as much financial as interpersonal: While it’s important to prioritize your bottom-line numbers, patients will be more loyal to you (and likely to pay up) should you incorporate a sense of empathy into the collections experience through the following efforts.Maintain a ‘Patient Care’ Mindset
Once the second or third statement goes unpaid, the patient as a person is often removed from your team’s mental approach to the situation. Don’t let that be the case! Train your medical billing team to remember that billing is the final, loop-closing aspect of the life-saving, disease-preventing care and treatment you deliver in order to help patients be well – not just a bureaucratic exercise in managing income totals.Remember the Reality
When it comes to collections, the problem typically isn’t a patient’s lack of desire to pay. They’re not ignoring your invoices because they take issue with the total on the invoice… they’re not paying because they don’t have the money. Craft your collections strategy with this in mind, and you can actually help debt-laden patient's square up slowly, over time (rather than goad them toward ignoring you forever).When it comes to collections, the problem typically isn’t a patient’s lack of desire to pay. They’re not ignoring your invoices because they take issue with the total on the invoice… they’re not paying because they don’t have the money. Craft your collections strategy with this in mind, and you can actually help debt-laden patient's square up slowly, over time (rather than goad them toward ignoring you forever).Reserve Judgments
In all walks of life, it can be difficult to set aside our expectation that an individual “should” always be able to pay for services rendered to them. But a survey by the Federal Reserve reported that 47% of American families faced with a $400 emergency bill would not have the resources on hand to cover the expense. Don’t let judgments over why a patient can’t pay cast a cloud over your collections effort; make sure that your staff or medical billing firm communicates options to patients with integrity, compassion, and an awareness that no one knows what it’s like to walk in another’s shoes!
...and if you need help from a medical billing company...