Patients don’t know what they don’t know. When they receive a massive medical bill, the statement balance can be so overwhelming that they simply opt not to pay, not realizing that they have options for paying off their balances. They don’t realize that they qualify for certain programs or that payment plan options are available.
Of course, every bill has a story. For one person, the $1,000 medical bill you just sent him could mean not paying a mortgage that month. For another, that $3,500 could be better served toward putting food on the table and gas in the car and keeping the lights and heat on in the house. Guess what these patients will choose? You know this story all too well. Your self-pay patients aren’t reading the fine print on their statements—it’s time to stop thinking that they do.
In order to collect what you’re owed, it’s important that hospitals rethink when to involve early out vendors. It’s time to think beyond the standard 90-120 day window and allow your early out vendors to get to work much earlier.
Self-Pay Patients: The Unripened Fruit of Billing & Collections
Many hospitals view self-pay patients—who make up a smaller percentage of the patients you’re trying to collect on— as low-hanging, “unripened fruit”. Hospitals tend to think that they should give these accounts more time to “develop”; that is, time to pay the bill within that 90-120 day threshold. But here’s the harsh reality that unfolds without fail:
The longer a hospital waits to make contact, the higher their chances of not getting paid become, and the more likely that unripened fruit will actually go rotten.
In 90-120 days, that unpaid bill will go to collections, and your chances of resolving the account radically decrease.
When to Involve Early Out Vendors: As Soon As Possible
Most hospitals think that Day 15 is far too early to bring in the early out vendor. Most often than not, they’re waiting until Day 60, and by then it’s too late. For example, the time-sensitive nature of Medicaid eligibility puts patients at risk for not qualifying for it. By the time a patient is educated on his or her options, they’re so late in the process that they can’t fulfill the requirements.
An early out vendor that is given the freedom to make contact with self-pay patients at an early stage of the process increases the likelihood that a patient can be informed of their financial options and start making payments on their balance.
A Proactive Relationship is the Best Relationship
Hospitals must find the balance between giving patients time to pay and letting go of accounts early so that the early out vendor can start working and establish a connection. And by early, we mean early: as soon as the patient has a statement in hand, they should receive a phone call from an early out vendor. We’ve seen this over and over again: a proactive approach to patient financial education is the one that maximizes cash flow. This approach has allowed us to successfully resolve, in many cases, 75% of self-pay accounts that we undertake. The difference is remarkable.
When self-pay patients are notified of their options, when they are educated about the financial assistance that is available to them, and when they are engaged on a personal level with someone who takes the time to sympathize with their individual situations and devise a solution that works for them, they will be more likely to pay. By not waiting until Day 60 to involve your early out vendors, you’ll not only improve the relationship between you and your patients, but substantially improve the flow of revenue to your organization.