A common challenge for many physicians is collecting co-pays and deductibles from patients. With the Affordable Care Act (ACA) the burden has grown. Because patients that have enrolled in plans under the ACA have a 90-day window within which to pay premiums, some practices may be getting stuck with the bill from enrollees who capitalize on services during that window, while intentionally neglecting the premiums owed to the practice.
Physicians and practice managers may become frustrated, and overwhelmed with addressing these unpaid healthcare costs with patients. Before getting too overwhelmed, remember that there are solutions, like the ones below, that can help you address the concerns.
5 Tips to Address Healthcare Costs with Patients
Talking about costs with your patients starts with training your staff to use effective strategies to avoid unpaid bills. In addition to training, consider the following tips:
#1. Payment Options Training
An easy way to avoid an unpaid bill is by training the entire staff on what the payment options of your practice entail. How do the payment plans work? Can you pay through an online portal, check, cash, or money order? All of these questions and more should be easily recalled by your staff.
#2. Know the Cost of Services
Knowing the payment options goes hand-in-hand with knowing how much the services provided at your practice cost. This is especially important for the nurses on staff because many patients feel more comfortable talking to a nurse or physician rather than a practice manager or receptionist about the cost of treatment. Make the patient comfortable from the start, so that asking for the required funds seems natural.
#3. Make it Personal
Money is a very personal subject. You can ease the awkwardness of asking for payment by using the patient's name, and underscoring why they are valuable as a patient. Look for a personal solution rather than placing blame for an unpaid bill. When your patients want to use your practice because they feel respected and valued, the likelihood of payment being made increases.
#4. Remind the Patient BEFORE the Visit
Usually, a healthcare practice will contact patients to remind them and confirm and upcoming appointment. Instead of stopping there, be prepared with a copay estimate the patient can expect upon visit. Reminding your patients that a cost is due is incredibly important and helps you answer questions ahead of time, so that there are no surprises the day of the visit.
#5. Consider the Quality of Referred Patients
One reason you may be getting stuck with the bill is that you are receiving referred patients that are not well-suited to your practice. This is not uncommon. When this happens you need to consider your sources of patient referrals, how many you receive per month, and the quality of the patient as it pertains to services offered at your practice. It could be that you are not spending enough time creating face-to-face, meaningful relationships with physicians in your area. Growing referrals that are high-quality will help you avoid having unpaid bills, while making your practice revenue grow.
What other ways are you addressing healthcare costs with your patients?