Self-pay patients often find themselves in a difficult situation. They don’t seek medical care until it is absolutely necessary, and when they do, they are often caught off guard by the bill that arrives after care is done. The total cost often frightens them into nonpayment, as they continue to shove the medical bill underneath their growing stack of other bills. A self-pay policy can help your patients, and your staff, understand the payment process, but these policies can be confusing. Fixing your self-pay policy can greatly aid in your patients being more likely to pay. Here’s what might be missing from your policy.
Without a clear policy, patients don’t know what is expected of them and staff might not know the best way to handle issues. This results in all staff handling issues differently, which can lead to confusion for a patient who calls and deals with different staff members each time. A self-pay policy needs to be consistent. One of the ways to do this is to have it written down. This gives a reference sheet for both patients and staff. This ensures that all patients are treated the same and any confusion doesn’t get worse for those patients who make multiple phone calls.
When patients come in for medical care, the thing that is foremost on their minds isn’t usually how much it’s going to cost them. If cost is crossing their thoughts, they most likely have no idea about what is expected of them as far as how much they owe or what the payment procedure is. A successful self-pay policy will communicate those expectations with your patients. You can let your patients know when their payments are due (such as collecting a portion, or total, at the beginning of the visit when they first check in), how co-pays (if any) are handled, the forms of payment that are accepted, and your nonpayment policies. Clearly stating your expectations aids in patient satisfaction, increasing the likelihood that you will get paid.
Having a long policy, full of complicated terms, can be discouraging for patients to read, and they will most likely skip over the whole thing. This is a disadvantage for them as well as you. Instead, keep your policy simple. Limit it to one page and make it easy to understand. Your patients will be much more likely to read it, and if they still have questions, they can be addressed right in the office.
Options for Help
Even if self-pay patients know exactly what is expected of them, knowing that the costs could be large is a frightening prospect. Make sure that they know you want to help them. Give them access to apply for Medicaid, or other assistance programs, if they are eligible. Offer discounts for prompt payment, or payment in full. Let them know that you can work with them to create an interest-free payment plan that will work for them. This can lift a huge burden off of their shoulders, and make them more likely to pay.
Having a policy that both your employees and your self-pay patients understand and follow can greatly increase your chances of getting paid. If you need help creating a self-pay policy, or working with patients to collect what they owe, contact The Midland Group.