The Patient Perspective: Keeping the Financial Experience Compassionate

Published: March 5, 2014 by Merideth Wilson

Meet Joe—a patient who is walking into a healthcare office, terrified of the news he might hear. He is confused and overwhelmed, not sure of where to turn for help. Joe isn’t entering a doctor’s exam room – he is actually walking into a hospital’s patient registration area, waiting to receive information about how much his procedure is going to cost.

Although anxious about the procedure, Joe is even more concerned about its impact on the family budget, unsure of his insurance co-payment or what will be covered. He’s worried that he can’t afford to pay a large bill in one payment. His interactions with the registration staff over the next few minutes will set the stage for the remainder of his experience with the hospital.

Now, let’s say the hospital realizes the value of having caring and compassionate financial conversations with patients at the start of the patient visit. Patient access staff quickly become the patient’s advocate while also improving the organization’s ability to collect from the patient and payer. In this instance, leveraging a data-driven approach allows staff to verify Joe’s identity and insurance coverage as well as provide an accurate estimate of his payment responsibility. The staff even can review data to assess his ability to pay and evaluate various payment plan and/or financial assistance options.

Even after Joe is discharged, the hospital continues to employ a patient-centered approach to collections, using patient financial data to segment accounts that share demographic and financial profiles, rather than simply looking at balance amounts and number of days open. Joe’s financial data places his in the “most likely to pay” segment, indicating that he would not receive a payment follow up call until (for example) day 75 instead of the traditional call on day 45. This not only saves staff time and increases successful collections, it also preserves Joe’s satisfaction by eliminating unnecessary phone calls when he is likely to pay.

Joe expected the hospital’s clinical staff to be responsive to his medical needs. When he found that the revenue cycle team was equally attentive to his financial needs, his satisfaction with the entire experience grew exponentially. It was fueled by a positive encounter that eased his mind about payment and allowed his to focus on his health. Using this proactive, personalized approach, the revenue cycle team had a major impact on both Joe’s experience and the bottom line.

What is your healthcare organization doing to enhance the patient experience? Comment below to share some of your best practices.

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