New research from Deloitte reports that healthcare costs for the average American could jump from $1000 to $3000 per year by 2040, putting pressure on households that are already feeling financially squeezed. Concerns about healthcare bills could push patients to delay or even default on payments. With inflation on the rise, providers must find ways to create a compassionate financial experience for patients to maximize collections. That’s where Patient Financial Clearance comes in.
While inflation and economic pressures are systemic challenges, the impact is individual. This should galvanize healthcare providers to find out exactly how patients may be affected. Using that knowledge, providers can then tailor the financial journey to make it as straightforward as possible for patients to manage their healthcare bills, whatever their specific circumstances.
With data on patients’ ability and likelihood to pay, providers can tailor charity care checks and maximize collections by building a collections process with the patient at its heart.
Create a compassionate collections experience with Patient Financial Clearance
Improving patient collections starts with identifying patients that are unlikely to be able to pay and checking their eligibility for extra support. Traditionally, providers might use manual processes to calculate a patient’s propensity to pay or entitlement to financial assistance. This might involve asking the patient to fill out a form with their financial details, calling the patient and the patient’s employer multiple times to understand their income, manually checking their information against the Federal Poverty Level to see if it meets the threshold for full or partial charity support, and then having the patient fill out yet more forms. Such labor-intensive work is a drain on staff resources, and often a stressful experience for patients.
Patient Financial Clearance helps create a more positive financial experience by automating eligibility checks. That way, patients can be assigned to the right payment pathway without delay. This solution also empowers patients with mobile text-based financial screening and provides them with updates on their charity status. It uses current financial data to screen patients to see if they’re eligible for Medicaid, charity support or other financial assistance programs, prior to or at the point of service. Armed with this data, providers can offer the best possible support to these patients and even auto-enroll them in the right program. For those with medical bills, Patient Financial Clearance calculates an optimal payment plan based on how much the patient is likely to be able to afford, so patients are clear about what they’ll owe and when. It can also suggest upfront fee collection when a patient can afford to pay but has been historically slow to do so.
Caye Mauney, Patient Access Director at Palo Pinto General Hospital, says:
“With Patient Financial Clearance, we can have a decision within three seconds… All that information is now at our fingertips. No more having to have the patient bring their check stubs, no more having to have the patient go back to former employers to try to get that information from them. It’s been a game changer for us for sure.”
Personalizing the payment pathway with digital financial solutions
Making sure patients don’t miss out on financial assistance is just one way to use data and automation to personalize the payment process. Data-driven personalization should be a thread that runs through the entire financial experience, including:
Personalized upfront payment estimates
Price transparency remains high on the agenda. Patients want to know their bills in advance so they can plan. Surprise bills lead to delays and frustration, to the detriment of both patients and providers.
With Patient Payment Estimates, self-pay patients can generate personalized pre-service cost estimates so they can get their financial ducks in a row before treatment even begins. These estimates are based on the patient’s individual insurance status, current payer rates and the provider’s chargemaster data. The tool also incorporates any applicable financial assistance, applies prompt-pay discounts, and suggests convenient payment plans that fit the patient’s individual circumstances.
Tailored payment plans for all
Once the patient has their estimates, they’ll want to know exactly when and how to pay. Some will be able to pay the full amount upfront, while others may need to spread out payments into more affordable chunks. Providers can maximize swift collections by ensuring that individual patients are directed toward the most appropriate option. Oftentimes, it may make sense to collect more payments upfront to alleviate collections costs downstream.
One way to deliver this is through a self-service portal such as PatientSimple, which provides a one-stop-shop for patients to view their estimates, consider pricing plans and keep credit card details on file. Being able to plan in this way gives patients more control and avoids any confusion about payments.
Consumer-friendly payment methods
When it’s time to pay, patients want options. Not everyone wants to come into the office, send credit card details in the mail, or exchange details over the phone. Online payment portals, contactless payments and mobile wallets are increasingly popular. Therefore, providers need to offer convenient digital payment options to remain competitive.
Offering a menu of payment options early in the patient journey means patients can “frontload” their financial admin, get payments out of the way, and focus on medical treatment. By giving patients control over how they pay, providers can reduce the risk of late and missed payments.
Timely and relevant communications
If there’s one action that can make or break a patient’s perception of their financial experience, it’s how their provider communicates with them. If information about medical billing is accurate, timely and compassionate, then the patient will feel more positively than if messages seem aggressive or contain errors. Getting this part right will improve patient engagement, drive faster patient collections and boost patient loyalty.
Healthcare marketing data can be used to underpin a personalized communications strategy and help providers send the right message at the right time, based on the patient’s preferences. When it comes to delivering the message, patient outreach solutions can send automated text and voice messages with bill reminders and links to payment methods to encourage prompt payments.
And to prevent the confusion and extra costs caused by incorrect contact information, Identity Verification can be integrated with Patient Financial Clearance to confirm the patient’s current mailing address.
Building a patient financial experience around the principles of personalization, empathy and convenience puts providers in a stronger position to maximize patient collections than with a one-size-fits-all approach. Find out how Patient Financial Clearance and other digital patient financial solutions leverage data and automation to identify and deliver what each patient needs, to improve patient satisfaction and increase the number of bills paid in full.