An issue of monumental importance in medical accounts receivable is patient-provider communication. While it may seem to be self-explanatory, patient-provider communicationrefers to the verbal and non-verbal exchange of information between patients and their providers throughout medical treatment. Effectively communicating with your patients increases the likelihood of receiving payments for services performed. This article will explain the importance of patient-provider communication in AR and provide four helpful tips to improve communication.
Why Patient-Provider Communication is Key for Practice Profitability
Many providers have no idea that something as simple as communication directly affects the profitability of a practice. If the provider fails to effectively communicate with the patient, that deficit can translate to decreased cash flow. There are several communication-related reasons that patients don’t pay their bills or choose not to provide payment details (health insurance information, worker’s compensation details, etc.). Let’s take a look at them below:
- The patient is not aware of all of the payment options available to them.
- The patient is unsure whether their insurance will foot the bill.
- The patient does not feel comfortable with their provider.
- The provider has not presented payment alternatives to the patient.
- The patient does not understand the charges and what they are for.
All of the above issues can lead to payment delays, but they can also be resolved by effective patient-provider communication.
Communication Tactics You Can Use to Improve the Payment Process
Efficient patient-provider communication is essential, yet many practices put little, if any, emphasis on communication tactics. Luckily, it’s never too late to make a change. Let’s look at several ways to improve the healthcare payment process through communication.
Talk to Patients About Healthcare Costs
As a healthcare provider, you know the healthcare revenue cycle like the back of your hand, but patients do not. Terms like “coinsurance,” “deductible,” and “copay” are foreign to the average patient. This means that medical practice staff need to take the time to ensure that all of their patients comprehend pertinent areas of the healthcare payment process.
Dedicated medical staff should be able to communicate the following if a patient calls in about a bill:
- The services provided and their costs – If a patient isn’t 100% certain of what they are being billed for, they are not likely to pay.
- How much the insurance paid and how much the patient is responsible for – When a patient is not clear on the amount due, they may not remit payment for the total amount. It may be necessary to explain the entire payment situation using the explanation of benefits (EOB) from the patient’s insurance company.
- Whether a copay is due for the visit – Some patients may need to be reminded of copays due.
- Explain what medical/health insurance terms mean to help patients understand their financial situation.
If the patient has an insurance-related question that medical office staff are unable to answer, encourage the patient to contact their health insurance company. The last thing you want is to give patients the wrong information.
Utilize a Simple Billing Statement Format
Both verbal and non-verbal communication are essential in the healthcare payment process, as extensive one-on-one conversations with patients may not be possible. Therefore, billing statements should be easy to read.
The patient should be able to quickly find the total charges, the services provided, payments made by insurance, and any charges they owe. If the patient cannot quickly piece together the information on the bill, they may ignore the bill entirely.
Note: Once the patient reviews the charges due, they should be able to submit a payment without a problem. Therefore, it’s wise to ensure that all payment options are clearly listed on the bill. If you offer alternative payment arrangements for patients, state that on the bill as well.
Talk About Healthcare Costs Often
Healthcare cost conversations should be ongoing. At the same time that a treatment plan is shared with the patient, the treatment costs should also be discussed. Be transparent about all fees that apply so that there won’t be any surprises down the line. Since it’s often impossible to forecast the exact cost of a procedure due to variations in insurance plans and deductibles, feel free to direct patients to speak with their insurance to find out the expected cost of a specific procedure.
The physician should have the initial cost conversation with the patient, being that he/she is the one who can discuss the necessity of recommended procedures.
Ensure All Patient Interactions are Pleasant
Medical providers should strive to provide an outstanding care experience for every patient, simply because it’s the right thing to do. But some may not know that their patient’s happiness pays dividends. A patient who has positive feelings toward their provider is more likely to pay their medical bills than one who doesn’t. Suppose your practice’s staff communicates in a static, robotic manner without a pleasant, caring disposition. In that case, this could have a negative effect on the patient’s attitude toward your practice and translate to diminished revenue.
Seek Assistance Through Extended Business Office Management
In a bustling medical office, taking extra time to explain the healthcare payment process and talk through payment issues may be more than a notion. Luckily, there’s help available for busy medical practices that are spread too thin. DataSearch Inc. has more than 48 years of experience recovering overdue funds and speaking with patients one-on-one about payment issues. The firm offers extended business office management, in which the following functions will be implemented:
- Communicate with patients post-discharge to help them understand the nuances of health insurance and medical billing.
- Recover payments from patients with overdue balances.
- Execute an expert-driven and efficient recovery process tailored to your practice.
With help from DataSearch’s experienced staff, your practice will enjoy increased profitability and reduced bad debt write-offs.
Now you know just how critical communication is for your practice’s bottom line, and you’ve got several actionable tips you can use to improve patient-provider communication. We hope that this article brings your practice a step closer to stellar patient-provider communication.