Why Patient Financial Experience Should Be Your Practice’s Priority

While your patients visit your health care practice because of medical concerns, they might also have other worries.

Their finances may also be causing them anxiety. Maybe they’re even worried about how their health care could affect their wallets.

Money worries are common and legitimate concerns. To allay these fears and help your patients, consider taking some steps to improve their financial experience.

Up-front pricing

Medical care is necessary, but it can also be expensive. Very expensive.

Sticker shock could be real if patients expect to pay one thing for their care, but their bills indicate otherwise.

According to U.S. federal law, if a patient asks for a good faith estimate for upcoming medical services or items, you’re required to provide one.

Even if patients don’t request such estimates, consider discussing your prices openly. You could list the cost of common treatments, medications, and offerings on your practice’s website, in your online patient portal, through postings at your office, and other places.

Instead of listing a single monetary value, you might want to give estimates or ranges for the projected costs. These estimates acknowledge that health care costs could differ because

  • People have different needs.
  • Insurance providers might reimburse different amounts.
  • Costs for equipment, medication, or other expenses might rise or fall.

By giving patients some ideas of what your services cost, you’ll spare them from some financial shock and help them budget accordingly.

Insurance verification

Insurance verification

Patients aren’t the only ones paying for the services they receive. Many have private or public insurance plans that help pay for some or all of their health care.

Of course, not every insurance company or program reimburses for every medical procedure or every procedure. On your website, you could list the insurance providers that your medical practice accepts.

Check regularly to see if this list is accurate. If it isn’t, make any necessary changes.

You could also include information about insurance providers on your patient portal as well as spaces where patients could add their own updates.

As they’re scheduling appointments, ask patients if there have been any changes in their insurance coverage. You could also ask them this when they’re using sign-in sheets or sign-in kiosks in your office when they arrive for their appointments. Also remind them to bring their insurance cards to their appointments.

Repeating questions about insurance might seem tedious. But a little initial annoyance could prevent hassle and worry if patients’ insurance companies deny coverage that they expected to receive.

Sliding fee scales and payment plans

Health care insurance might only cover some of your patients’ expenses, or it might not pay anything.

Providing different payment options could enhance the overall patient financial experience.

Consider offering sliding fee scales and payment plans.

With sliding fees, you could charge lower fees to patients who have incomes that fall below certain levels and/or ones who are paying for all their fees out of their pockets. To determine who’s eligible for sliding fees, you might want to compare their incomes to the U.S. Federal Poverty Guidelines and proceed from there.

Or, you might allow patients to pay for services and items in multiple installments instead of one lump sum. Doing so helps patients receive care while your practice continues to receive revenue.

Patient portals

Patient portals

Another way medical offices could encourage patient financial engagement is by creating patient portals.

When patients log on to online patient portals, they’ll find comprehensive data about their health, the services you’ve given them, and their communication with you.

They might also find financial information. On patient portals, you might want to include payments your patients have made, claims that are still pending, and estimated costs for services they’ll be receiving during future appointments.

To keep all this updated, you could connect your office’s electronic health record (EHR) and practice management systems to the portals.

Since patient portals allow patients to communicate with medical practices, you and your patients could ask questions about payments, insurance, and other finance-related matters.

Kiosks

Patient portals aren’t the only way you could leverage technology to handle financial matters with your patients.

Kiosks are another way. Installing kiosks, or stations with electronic devices such as laptops or tablets, could help patients check in to your office for visits.

Such kiosks could also help patients learn about and share financial data. The kiosk’s device might ask them to enter information about their insurance, for example.

The device might also inform patients if they need to pay copays (copayments, or fees that their insurance providers don’t cover). If patients do have copays, or if they have other outstanding bills, the kiosk device might allow patients to pay for their services with a credit card.

Because they allow patients to do so much, kiosks might benefit your practice financially as well. Patients who use kiosks might spend less time interacting with the front desk.

Since they’re interacting with patients less, your employees might then have more time to perform other tasks, and your office might need fewer employees entirely. This could boost your office’s productivity and cut its costs.

Outsourced assistance

Outsourced assistance

But in other instances, you might need more, not fewer, employees to help improve the financial experience of you and your patients.

You might need to outsource this assistance.

For example, handling medical billing and insurance claims are often time-consuming and complex. Medical practices might want to

  • Work with medical clearinghouses to handle paperwork.
  • Hire experts to file and track claims and communicate with insurance providers.
  • Use cloud-based practice management systems to manage bills, payments, and other financial matters.

Using such help, practices could help bill patients efficiently and work with insurance providers to pay these bills.

Since the processes are more streamlined, your practice will have more time to devote to medical-related tasks, not financial ones.

Do you and your patients need help with your health care finances? Contact Eye Care Leaders. We’ll work with you to create and use customized solutions that consider both budgets and health.

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