March 21, 2017
4 Reasons to Help Patients Understand Their Financial Obligations

Insurance claims, payments, and denials are often topics of concern for the hardworking healthcare provider who monitors these processes of the revenue cycle in order to ensure that he or she receives due payment for their efforts. However, another payment source that is often underestimated and perhaps not as rigorously pursued is the patient’s pocket. It has been noted that patient payments can account for 18% of a healthcare provider’s revenue, a sizable amount that could be lost if not actively collected. These payments can fall through the cracks, particularly when patients are confused or unclear about their contributions to payment process. Healthcare providers need to be more proactive in helping their patients to understand their financial obligations. Here are four reasons why this should be done.

Rewarding the effort

As for anyone in a profession which requires hard work, healthcare providers ought to be rewarded for the work that they do to keep their patients healthy. By explaining to patients what procedures or services need to be done, how much it would cost, and how much they are required to contribute, this helps patient to understand the extent of their healthcare provider’s efforts and their own obligation to pay for services that have enhanced their health, thanks to the efforts of their healthcare providers.

Greater focus on medical issues

As with the distractions of EHR clerical work which divert the physician’s attention on the medical part of patient care, chasing after payments from non-paying patients can also take a considerable amount of time or effort and can distract the physician from focusing on more important medical tasks. Instead, the more effective way to go about securing payment is to establish clarity on the issues of payment with their patients from the very start of care, or before a major procedure. Suggestions for strategies to reduce the amount of lost payment include training of medical practice staff to interact and explain to patients about their payment obligations, reviewing necessary collections prior to a patient’s visit so that one is prepared to collect during the visit, reviewing of a patient’s obligations prior to the patient’s visit so that one is prepared to discuss payment issues before a particular service or procedure, and devising a feasible payment plan for patients with large balances, down payment of services, or keeping of patient credit card when collection is needed. All of these methods can help ease the burden of payment chasing by the physician and allow him or her to focus more on the patient and not on payment issues.

Clarity can lead to greater initiative

Clarifying to the patient his or her role in the payment process can potentially lead to more action on the part of the patient. As in patient engagement and its helpfulness in improving compliance, making patients aware of how they should contribute to payment can lead to more initiative on the part of the patient’s side once they known when and how to achieve this. Another strategy for promoting clarity involves creating a patient portal through which all information regarding payment are easily read and understood by the patient.

Relationship between physician and patient is improved

Lastly, an extensive discussion between physician and patient helps the physician to establish transparency with the patient regarding costs. Greater trust is cultivated in the patient-physician relationship and there are no surprises, inconveniences, or last minute issues such as those instances which leave patients scrambling for their quick payment when they are already prepped for surgery.