In recent years, hospitals have turned to physician staffing companies to fill empty shifts for emergency services. But recent reports raise the possibility this arrangement does more harm than good when it comes to improving patient experience as well as recovering patient receivables. Hospitals turn to physician staffing companies because it eliminates the need to recruit, hire, and credential staff in difficult-to-fill positions, allowing hospitals to focus on services and care. The downside of this arrangement is balance billing from the physician staffing firm, and these surprise bills are garnering increasing attention from media and lawmakers.
What happens is the patient receives a bill from the hospital as well as the physician staffing firm. But in the latter bill, patients are making an unpleasant discovery. Even if the hospital is in their insurance network, some are finding the physician staffing companies are not. This news can hit hard, especially when costs reach several thousand dollars. The patient may even feel deceived, and the bad experience will reflect on the hospital brand as much as it does on the physician staffing company.
In the end, the effects may even haunt accounts receivable managers. The publication InsideARM recently urged organizations to take a hard look at how the benefits of contracting with physician staffing companies balances with patient experience: It appears their “billing practices and their attendant bad PR are so detrimental to the patient experience that any benefits … are down the drain. This would be the case if patients don’t return to the facility for future care, or don’t pay their bills as the result of a poorly handled, opaque and confusing balance billing issue.”
Organizations can get in front of the issue by considering how this hospital-contractor equation has an impact on patient experience, and taking steps to smooth out the billing bumps.
* Better price transparency during the visit is essential to maintaining patient trust. Include a mechanism that informs patients when they are being seen by a physician who is employed by a staffing company, making them aware this could impact billing later on.
* A simplified, patient-friendly bill. The billing phase is one of the stickiest in all of the patient experience. When bills arrive from different organizations, and for amounts that are greater than the patient’s expectations, it frustrates and confuses patients, creating less-than-ideal conditions to resolve receivables in a timely manner. A patient-friendly bill would list all charges in a single document that clearly states payment received by the insurance payer, while conveying to the patient their opportunities to establish a payment plan.
Bottom line, price transparency and billing practices should not be overlooked when it comes to improving patient experience. In the end, these things will reflect well on the brand, and patients will be more engaged when it’s time to resolve the bills.
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