When patients are admitted, they are treated with care, compassion and respect. This starts the moment they walk through the doors and continues all throughout their care. Most hospital patients are scared and vulnerable. A gentle hand can go a long way to soothe their nerves and make their stay, no matter what the reason, easier. After all, patients respond better to this kind of treatment and for your hospital, this means positive reviews and recommendations.
But compassion for your patients shouldn’t stop when they are discharged. Self-pay patients often have a difficult time paying their medical bills, and that same care and compassion can go a long way in getting them to pay what they owe, helping you to resolve your self-pay accounts, and benefit your bottom line.
Patients are People…Not Account Numbers
One thing that is often forgotten after a patient leaves the hospital is that they are still a human being. They are not just an account number. If you continually send bills and make phone calls reminding them of the amount they already know they can’t afford, they are most likely going to react negatively and feel like you don’t care about them. This can not only negatively impact resolving self-pay accounts but also damage your reputation as an organization.
When the patient needs future services, or someone asks for a recommendation on which hospital to go to, he or she is going to remember this post-discharge treatment over the compassion received during treatment, and most likely won’t return and won’t recommend your hospital to other potential patients. Patients are still people and therefore deserve to be treated with dignity and respect.
Patients Have Responsibilities
Another often forgotten thing about patients is that they have other responsibilities, sometimes many more, than just paying their medical bills. Patients have families they need to provide for. Their spouses, children, and in some instances parents, need food. Mortgages or rent needs to paid so that they, and their families, have a place to live. They need to pay for electricity and heating. Their children need clothing and supplies to go to school. For those with ailing parents, other medical bills and prescriptions need to be paid for. Many self-pay patients already struggle with these, and other, issues, despite working. They simply don’t make enough to pay for everything all at once and therefore some bills, usually their medical ones, go by the wayside. But a little bit of compassion can go a long way when trying to collect; even something as simple as a phone call asking how they are doing and taking an interest in them can help.
Compassion Doesn’t Mean Free
While you need to be understanding, you still need to get paid. Otherwise, without the proper revenue, you won’t be able to afford to continue to provide the high quality care that all of your patients deserve. It is important that you implement an engagement plan for your self-pay patients. Don’t harass them, but be firm. Work with them to find a payment solution that works for them and fits within their budget. Suggest that they apply for Medicaid. And when they do pay, acknowledge that payment. Patients are all too familiar with receiving letter after letter and never ending phone calls when they owe something, but getting nothing when they do.
Another solution is to hire a third party vendor, one who can treat your patients with the same care and compassion that you provided, to work with your patients for you. This will allow you to maintain your focus on providing the best care possible for your patients while the vendor works with the self-pay patient to find a payment solution.