Effective Strategies for Practices Post-COVID-19
COVID-19 rapidly took a toll on medical practices as they moved much of their operations online and quickly adopted new tools and best practices in times of crisis. Canceling nonessential procedures and visits were important, but it wasn’t without financial consequences, and many practices are looking to the future and asking, “What are the best practices moving forward?”
Cash flow will be critical in the coming months, and practices will be paying closer attention to collecting payments, and at the same time, making it easier for patients to manage costs during a difficult time. Proactively implementing the right strategies will help you navigate this challenging period while providing patients with a more engaging and meaningful experience.
Connecting telemedicine and faster payments
COVID-19 spurred an already growing telehealth market. Many patients who didn’t have any prior telemedicine experience saw firsthand the potential for time savings and convenience. Two-thirds of patients recently surveyed reported the pandemic has increased their willingness to try virtual care.
As more people become interested in telehealth, practices may consider expanding those services. If this is a strategy that your practice is interested in pursuing in the future, it’s important to consider digital payments and trends in healthcare payments. These tools are powerful in improving cash flow and speeding up the payment cycle.
For example, prior to the visit, you can send an accurate cost estimate and follow up with a text or email with digital payment options that allow faster payment. If the patient needs help paying for care, that conversation can happen earlier, and you can discuss patient payment options. This is especially critical right now because prior to the COVID-19 crisis, about 137 million Americans struggled with some sort of medical debt. Personalized payment options can ease that burden and provide additional resources to pay for care.
Consider a different approach to payment plans
Many practices offer payment plans, but they handle those plans in-house. This can create additional risk for your organization, increasing its exposure to bad debt.
Consider working with a partner to provide affordable and personalized financing options to your patients. This allows you to offer plans that fit the patient’s budget without taking on the financial risk yourself. Consider doing the following:
- Look for a partner with customizable options. In the past, patients might have easily managed a $200 payment, but post-COVID-19, they might need additional time and smaller monthly payments to settle that debt. Patients should have the option of selecting a payment plan that fits their budget.
- Ensure the plan is 100% inclusive. Not all partners enable practices to offer credit to 100% of their patients, and in a post-COVID-19 environment, it’s important to include everyone, regardless of their credit situation.
- Look for a partner that provides the option of getting paid up front on receivables. The COVID-19 crisis took a toll on many medical practices, and keeping receivables flowing is critical to success. Consider a plan that allows you the option of getting paid up front on receivables to keep your cash flow healthy.
ClearGage is a healthcare payment and financing solution that can help. By offering patients flexible and personalized financing options, practices can open their doors to more people who didn’t think they could afford care in the past.
Create strategies that increase patient engagement
Patients need to accurately understand their exact financial responsibility and have tools that help them manage those costs. Increasing patient engagement and communication can help you build a stronger practice and nurture patient relationships. Consider the following:
Understand patient communication preferences. Work to understand your patients’ communication preferences and deliver information and payment options using those methods. For example, many patients are gravitating to digital communications such as text or email, and providing the ability to pay bills using these methods enhances the experience.
Automate patient engagement. Create a strategy that considers the patient journey and when a person needs communication and information. For example, prior to the visit, people need an accurate estimate of costs so they don’t feel surprised and can plan for how to pay. After the visit, they need information about how to pay that bill, and payment plan options. Deliver customized messages along every critical point in the journey.
Offer convenient services. Patients expect experiences with less “friction” and more seamless interactions with their healthcare providers. For example, offer patients “card on file” technology in which you can automatically charge the card after insurance has paid its portion of the bill.
Building a stronger practice in the future
This pandemic has represented a time of struggle for many practices as they have been forced to scale back on staff and rethink how they deliver services. The technology adopted during the crisis, however, could be the key to reorienting your practice in the future and fueling additional growth.
Telemedicine allows you access to more patients, some of whom quickly note the time savings provided by the technology. Digital payments allow you to get paid faster. When you leverage this technology into future operations, you can improve your business practice and position yourself to grow in the coming months.