What You Need to Know About Patient Responsibility Payments

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Self Pay

Historically, independent practices have had better collection rates than large networks or hospitals. But that’s changing. Patients are shouldering more and more of the financial burden for healthcare than ever before. Higher deductibles. More in premiums. Greater copays.

In fact, Kaiser Family Foundation revealed that out-of-pocket patient pay rose about 230% between 2006-2015. That same study shows that family coverage has increased to a whopping 78%.

Then it’s no surprise that practices of every kind are struggling to collect from patients. In fact, an estimated 68% of patients do not pay their medical bills in full.

The issue of patient responsibility payments is exacerbated by other challenges:

  • It can cost a practice twice as much to collect from a patient as compared to a payer.
  • Over 70% of patients aren’t aware of their payment responsibility prior to a visit.
  • More than 80% of healthcare providers and 92% of hospitals indicated traditional collection solutions are damaging their profit margin.

The statistics range far and wide, but they all point toward one definite trend – patients are paying more than ever for healthcare, and as a result, medical providers are struggling to be properly compensated.

Times are Changing: Methods for Patient Collections Must Change, Too

Meanwhile, the healthcare industry does little to help struggling consumers, patient education and outreach are rare. It’s no wonder that patients are increasingly frustrated with healthcare and their providers.

Healthcare consumerism has come about because, according to Black Book, “patients truly are the new payers.” In other words, as a result of increased financial burden and frustration, patients are beginning to seek a healthcare experience that resembles a retail experience.

So, the consumer purchasing behaviors found in the retail industry are now reflected in how patients shop for healthcare.

That means patients now:

  1. Research and compare options before choosing a provider.
  2. Expect transparent pricing.
  3. Seek the right balance of affordability and quality of care.
  4. Desire easy access to medical information and records.  
  5. Prefer electronic payment options.

Guided by their experiences with fast, affordable and efficient platforms like Amazon, Apple and other online retailers, patients have a clear vision for what ideal healthcare (and payments) look like.

Let’s delve into each of the bullet points above to see how your practice can accommodate these new and growing demands.

Five Steps to Improve Patient Responsibility Payments

Improving patient responsibility payments is simple, but not easy. It involves meeting patients where they are. Empathizing with their desires and adapting to their needs will not only improve patient engagement and satisfaction, but it’s proven to increase collections, too.

1. Increase Patient Satisfaction

Improving patient responsibility payments starts at the very beginning of the patient’s journey, before they ever step foot in your practice.

Recall that patients are now researching and comparing the practices and providers available to them. They’ll look to review sites like Yelp and HealthGrades to get a sense of who you are.

As a result, your practice should:

  • Ensure your online presence is as positive as possible.
  • Be listed on any applicable sites (Yelp, HealthGrades, Google My Business, etc.).
  • Respond to reviews – particularly negative ones – quickly and courteously

The better your practice’s online presence is, the more new business will flow through your doors. After all, this is how the modern patient finds you and decides on you.

Put another way, improving the experience of current patients will bring you more business.

Improving the patient experience also helps a practice retain current patients, which means better collections. Patients with which you have a longstanding relationship are more likely to pay than one-and-done visitors.

2. Consider Automated Payments

Automated payments or account-on-file technology, allows you to safely obtain and store patient payment information. The account information is then stored in a highly secure, encrypted payment vault. As balances become due, the automated technology will schedule the payment, pinging patients in advance to make sure finances are available.

This helps fill the financial gaps that typically riddle the revenue management cycle by making patient responsibility payments easy. Automated payments also eliminate manual workflow, facilitate front-end patient financial conversations and ensure payment is received in a matter of days – not months.

As an added bonus, automated payments eliminate the paper statement, which is good for the environment and good for your busy staff.

3. Offer Patient Financing Options

Asking for patient responsibility payments upfront goes hand-in-hand with offering healthcare financing options. Healthcare financing allows patients who cannot fully pay out-of-pocket to pay over time.

Generally, financing works by using a patient’s credit to finance the cost of any services. It’s proven to increase overall rates of patient collection. No surprise, considering it gives patients a reasonable option during their time of need.

Patient financing also enables you to provide transparent estimates before services are rendered. You can discuss options upfront and enroll patients in payment plans prior to their treatment. Some financial services will even allow you to tailor payment plans to each patients’ unique budget, in addition to offering a range of facility-approved plans.

4. Utilize an Online Portal

To improve patient collections, medical practices must meet patients where they are – and patients, like the rest of us, are online.

For that reason, including a patient portal increases engagement. This central hub can serve as a place where patients come to make payments, schedule appointments and view payment plans.

Patient portals are also an excellent platform for education and outreach, much of what the modern patient is missing from their healthcare experience.  

5. Include Mobile Patient Payment Solutions

If you really want to delight patients, there are few better ways to meet them on their terms than to offer mobile payment options. By connecting with patients the move, you empower them to pay from their mobile phone or tablet quickly, conveniently and online.

A mobile payment option is the ultimate convenience. Patients can pay anywhere, anytime and from any device.

By enabling this line of communication, patients can easily enroll in payment plans and practices can easily deliver customized text messages and emails. This is important because mobile email open rates have officially surpassed desktop email open rates, especially where younger generations are concerned.

When it comes to patient responsibility payments, it’s critical that practices are able to reach patients on their terms, through their preferred method of communication.

A Simple Solution for Patient Responsibility Payments

If you want to revolutionize the way your practice does business and maximize patient collections, consider automated payment solutions.

ClearGage offers a centralized suite of modular payment capabilities that makes patient responsibility payments easy.

  • Accepts all major credit cards
  • Utilizes encrypted point-of-sale devices
  • Offers custom subscription plans
  • Custom branded patient portal
  • Mobile payments
  • Automated settlement
  • Interactive voice response (IVR) payments
  • AutoPay

To learn more about how ClearGage can improve your bottom line, schedule a demo with us today.