So your hospital is seeing an influx of high-deductible, but covered patients. Or maybe you’re starting to realize you can’t keep letting go of those 90-day past-due accounts as bad debt. Maybe you just don’t have the proper software or personnel needed to manage patient payment options. Whatever your reason is, you know it’s time to offer a patient payment plan that works for your organization.
But where to begin?
As you start the process of choosing a patient payment plan, here are eight items to keep in mind to ensure you find a plan that benefits your hospital financially, while providing options that work for your patients.
- Offer payment options to everyone. Now matter how big – or small – an account is, offer the opportunity to pay off the debt in a monthly-payment program. What might be considered a small amount to your hospital could be a large hospital bill for the patient. Keeping your patient’s best interest in mind will create a positive image for your hospital in his or her eyes.
- Vary the interest based on beginning balance. Although there are many hospitals that believe charging interest on patient balances reduces the effectiveness of their mission, they may be more than willing to accept credit cards as payment, which can have interest rates up to 27 percent. Applying a fixed-rate amount of interest to the patient’s debt may not only be a better situation for them financially, but will move the payment up on the list of the patient’s priorities.
- Let patients add future balances to an existing account. Surprisingly, many hospitals do not have the ability to add new balances on an existing account, which makes it confusing for the patient when paying as well as for the representative trying to apply payment to an account. If a patient needs additional services at your hospital, allow him or her to add the charges to the balance. This way, he or she will only have one check to write each month to your organization.
- Give patients multiple payment options. Consumers like and want choices and that goes for managing debt. Patients are the same. Allow them to pay by credit card, check or auto-transfer from a bank account. Allow patients to pay online, via snail mail or over the telephone. Allow patients to choose the monthly due date that fits their cash flow or other monthly bills.
- Provide excellent customer service. As you develop or choose a patient payment plan, make customer service a priority. A positive experience equals a happy patient, which could also equal a positive online review, positive word of mouth, or even positive patient satisfaction scores. Not only is it beneficial for your hospital to have happy patients, it can also be helpful to the patient as he or she recuperates.
- Add incentives to your payment plan. By incentivizing different steps of the payment process, you increase the likelihood of full payment, while offering benefits to the payer. At each step of the payment process, identify ways to offer an incentive for full payment.
- Don’t be a fee-meanie. Because hospitalization can be one of the worst things to happen in a patient’s life, adding fees, fines, penalties and other forms of retribution doesn’t add to the positive experience in dealing with your hospital. Think again about any fees you are considering adding and figure out if they are really necessary.
- Collect on those old accounts that fell by the wayside. Take a look at your oldest accounts with an active balance. Has the patient been paying a monthly balance for a long time? Has the patient been sending a check here and there with no predictable regularity? These accounts can be more work than they’re worth. Offer a way for patients to pay off those old accounts with a discount if they pay within in 30 days.
If you follow these steps as you develop or choose a new patient payment plan, your hospital will see positive results and improved self-pay cash flow. To learn more about these steps, download The Midland Group’s latest e-book: 8-Step Checklist to Choosing a Patient Payment Plan.