According to a study of its 94 emergency departments by CEP America in March and April of this year, the hospitals saw a 6 percent increase in the number of self-pay patients. In the same period of 2014, they saw a 2 percent decrease in the number. Since the beginning of the year, CEP America says the number of self-pay patients has doubled.
So, what does this mean for hospitals?
The obvious result could be an increase in bad debt due to unpaid out-of-pocket costs, but there are some not-so-obvious opportunities on which these hospitals should take advantage.
Use self-pay patients as an opportunity to increase patient satisfaction scores. Studies have shown that 70 percent of patients who give high ratings in quality of care also gave high ratings to their payment and billing interactions. From your patients’ first interactions with your hospital, keep the lines of communication open, and make sure your admissions counselors review their coverage letting them know of out-of-pocket costs they may incur before they receive care. The less surprises the patient experiences regarding his or her financial obligations, the much happier they will be and the more likely they will be to give your hospital high ratings. Of course, not all patients enter your hospital through the front door, in those cases…
Increase self-pay accounts receivables by providing payment plan options. Regardless of the size of a patient’s self-pay balance after their care has completed, provide the opportunity to pay through a payment plan. You may opt to vary the fixed interest rates based on the balance, provide options in length of plans based on the balance, or incentivize full payment at each step of the payment process. This is also an opportunity to provide more positive touch-points with your patients, thereby increasing their positive experience with your organization, increasing the likelihood of using your services in the future, and providing positive ratings.
These are all positive ways to improve receivables and patient satisfaction, but what if your hospital doesn’t have enough staff or the right tools to manage payment plans? This means it might be time for your hospital to outsource its billing services. Using a third-party vendor takes the burden off your staff in managing payments, and increases receivables by providing options to your patients.
When it’s time to choose a patient payment plan, keeps these things in mind, and make sure your vendor can provide them:
- Offer payment plans to every patient
- Vary the interest based on the initial plan balance
- Let patients add future balances to their existing account
- Provide multiple payment options – credit cards, checks, cash, etc.
- Build customer service around patients’ pain points
- Incentivize payment plans at each step of the process
- Don’t fine and charge fees for every little thing
- Consider an amnesty program for quick cash
To learn more about the eight steps listed above in choosing a patient payment plan, download this ebook. To learn more about patient payment plans in general, visit The Midland Group’s page on payment plans.