Medical Billing Tips: How to Resolve Patient Billing Problems

December 23, 2014 by Antonio Arias, MBA, CHBME

Topics: Medical Billing, Revenue Cycle Management

Your practice does a lot for your patients’ physical health, but are you doing anything for their financial health? Medical billing can cause a lot of headaches for patients, especially if they feel that their provider isn’t doing enough to help them understand their bills and resolve problems that come up.

Not every practice is equipped to help patients resolve billing problems, due in part to budget shortages, staffing issues, or other factors.But if you’re looking to enhance your patients’ all-around experience with your practice in the new year, improving medical billing is the perfect place to start.

Find and Eliminate Your Own Errors

Many medical billing problems that patients face have nothing to do with the provider and everything to do with their insurer, thanks to limited-coverage plans, high deductibles, and other issues. But sometimes, the problems lie squarely with you.

  • Is your billing department prone to errors, oversights, or poor timing?
  • Is your denial rate above average?
  • Are your billers spread too thin with other responsibilities around your office?

Pinpoint your areas of weakness and fix them right away. (Or, outsource your issues by contracting with a medical billing service – it may be more cost-effective).

Revisit Your Processes

Practices that don’t have formal medical billing policies often have holes or redundancies in their processes that confuse their patients. Unless you’re careful, you could be:

  1. Skipping eligibility checks
  2. Mailing duplicate bills and statements
  3. Missing filing deadlines
  4. Failing to communicate important information to patients
  5. Or making other missteps

If you don’t have step-by-step procedures mapped out for your entire revenue cycle, you need them – so create a written medical billing policy guide right away. If you do have a policy in play, review your processes to make sure they’re up-to-date and helping you operate at optimal efficiency. (Get tips on creating or updating your policy guide HERE.)

Consider a Concierge

Make sure your patients have an ally as they navigate the challenges of medical billing. As the business of healthcare becomes more value-based and patient centric, some medical practices are incorporating “financial advocates” into their businesses to better serve their populations.

An advocate’s duties involve helping your patients understand their health expenses – both out-of-pocket and through their health plans – and taking care of special issues like filing, auditing, or appealing problem claims upon patient request.

That may or may not be right for your practice but, at the very least, you must appoint someone in your office to be the go-to person for patient billing questions – rather than just let those calls roll to the back office for the next available person to handle. This “patient billing support” rep can be a member of your billing team or a knowledgeable clerical staffer who can act as a liaison between your patients and your medical billing service.

The best way to avoid plain mistakes is to work with well-trained professionals. One option is outsourced medical billing, which is proven to help medical practices maximize revenue by lowering claim denial rates.

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