How Providers Can Streamline Patient Payment Collections

How Providers Can Streamline Patient Payment Collections

Patients are finding it increasingly difficult to pay for medical care, which is forcing more practices to chase bad debt. One study found that 68% of patients failed to pay off medical balances, up from 53% in 2015 and 49% during 2014. As a result, many practices struggle with collecting patient balances and are unsure of the best strategies to serve patients better while preserving financial stability. 

Fortunately, there are patient payment tools that enable practices to get paid faster and greatly improve the overall payment cycle. Understanding patients’ largest pain points, such as the cost of care, and innovative solutions that use the technologies that people prefer will get you on the right path to improving patient payment collections.  

Empowering patients to pay upfront or set up payment plans 

Patients are paying a larger portion of their healthcare out of pocket, partly due to high-deductible insurance plans. Research shows that out of the $63.7 billion that patients are responsible for annually, over $7 billion goes unpaid. There are a variety of reasons why people don’t pay medical bills, including lack of financial resources, confusion about the outstanding balance due, and believing their health insurance should have covered more. 

Nearly half of patients (40%) would be unable to cover an emergency expense of $400 or more. What’s more, one in five patients has depleted their savings account to pay a medical bill in the past year. As a result, people need patient financing now more than ever. 

Most people (90%) want to pay their medical bills but need assistance with making that possible. Consider the following benefits of working with a patient financing partner: 

  • Empowers patients with flexible and personalized financing options. For example, some of your patients can barely pay $20 a month, while others can easily pay $100 a month. An effective plan allows you to set the interest rates and payment terms and will make the plan more flexible for your patient. 
  • Allows for fast and easy setup. Setting up a payment plan should be easy, and it should use the technology that your patients already know and enjoy. People are completing a variety of tasks digitally, such as grocery shopping, one-click shopping, and more. They want that same convenience when setting up a payment plan. An effective platform allows people to set up payment plans directly from their mobile device or computer. 
  • Enables your medical practice to drive more on-time payments. Providing your patients with the tools to easily pay for medical bills on their prefered device can reduce the risk of late payments. 

As patients struggle to make healthcare payments, it becomes more critical for your practice to give people the necessary tools to feel confident that they can afford care. Patient financing is a critical part of the solution and ensuring that your practice gets paid on time. 

Adapting to your patient’s preferred communication method 

The expectations of patients are fast-changing, and along with these changing expectations come new ideas around communication preferences. Many patients don’t want to receive a phone call reminding them about their upcoming visit but instead prefer to receive a text or an email. Acknowledging these preferences sets your practice apart and makes your patients feel truly known by their provider. But how can you accomplish this personalization at scale? The key is using the right patient engagement technology.

A patient engagement platform enables your practice to communicate more effectively with patients and keep them engaged along the patient journey. An effective system should be strategically designed to nurture the patient-provider relationship at critical touch points throughout the patient experience. So what should your practice look for in a patient platform? Consider the following: 

  • Includes automated payment options. If you’re communicating with patients about payment details, payments should be digitally enabled. For example, consider the patient who has an outstanding balance. That patient should receive an email or text reminder and be able to pay the bill directly from their mobile device or computer. Additionally, people should have the ability to keep a credit card on file so your practice can, with their consent, use that card to automate and collect future payments. 
  • Enabled for on-the-go interaction. Patients should receive critically timed information via their preferred method of communication. For example, if a patient recently received an estimate for services, they should be able to view those details on the go.
  • Connected to an online portal. People want to do much of their business online,  including checking account balances, setting up payments, and establishing a patient financing plan. Many people don’t want to call your office or fill out lengthy paperwork. Ensure that your engagement platform drives patients to an online platform where they can conduct various actions that make their payment experience easier. 

A patient engagement platform is a unique tool that helps you get paid faster and improves patient relationships through more engaging interactions. When more communication is automated, staff can refocus their energy on other tasks that increase patient satisfaction. 

Implementing greater transparency around the cost of care 

Patients are no longer willing to accept “blind” interactions. They want to know the cost of services before they visit your practice, and they want those details clearly presented. This shift around patient expectations and cost is critical to understand because more of your revenue is coming directly from the pockets of patients. Practices are dealing with patients who have quickly transformed into customers. 

Providing a more transparent experience around cost also helps people better plan for their financial responsibility. Seventy-five percent of patients reported that understanding out-of-pocket expenses helps them better pay for healthcare. Additionally, nearly half of patients (49%) say that having clear information about the expected out-of-pocket costs before receiving treatment impacts their decision to use a healthcare provider. So how can you create more transparency around the cost of care? 

An accurate and upfront patient estimate is a critical tool that meets patients’ fast-evolving expectations and helps get you paid faster. Any questions that the patient has about the cost of care can be answered upfront instead of leading to late payment collection or bad debt in the future. Consider the following aspects when evaluating a patient estimation tool: 

  • Ensures that you have access to real-time data. Estimates are only as good as the tools that you use to provide them. Real-time data is critical in providing the transparency that people expect and creating the trust that your practice needs around the cost of care. 
  • Creates an opportunity to pay for care prior to the visit. Many patients are willing to pay for care before stepping foot in your office. But upfront collection is not possible if you don’t present an accurate estimate that gives people the option to pay remotely from their favorite devices. 
  • Supports flexible and personalized payment options. If a patient can’t afford to pay their entire medical balance, they will appreciate the ability to set up flexible payment options. Ensure that your platform offers these payment options. 

Creating greater synergy with a single platform 

Improving your revenue cycle and reducing bad debt is all about striking a balance between creating more engaging customer experiences and giving people the tools, resources, and transparency required to pay for care. Practices need innovative solutions that provide simplified digital payments, patient financing, improved communication, and accurate upfront estimates. When you offer all of these elements under a single platform, you strike a synergistic balance that keeps your patients satisfied with your practice. 

For example, imagine that a patient visits your practice and receives an upfront estimate. That patient decides they will handle payment later, and despite you sending a digital payment option via text message, the bill goes unpaid. Once that payment is past due, you can use your engagement platform to remind that patient of the overdue balance and provide them with flexible and convenient payment options. This system provides a consistent and seamless experience for the patient and helps you get paid faster. 

Designing a strategy that improves cash flow 

Cash flow is critical to the future success of your business, yet practices struggle to find the right balance between serving patients and collecting payments promptly. Streamlining patient collections is about finding the right balance between providing a positive patient experience and speeding up your payment collection cycle while reducing bad debt. 

Doing this effectively allows you to communicate with patients in a meaningful and authentic way that addresses their largest pain points, such as the cost of care, and it enables them to pay their bills more easily. As a result, you will open the doors to more patients and give them the confidence to visit your practice whenever they have a healthcare need, without the stress of financial burden.