Given the rise of patient consumerism, being a physician or member of a practice now means you are split between two roles. The primary role involves what one traditionally thinks about when they think of a doctor, patient care. You encourage, preserve, and restore the health of your patients. But in recent years, you have no doubt adopted a secondary role. As patients have transformed into consumers with purchasing power over their healthcare services, the physician has had to adjust, balancing their concerns about patient health with discussions about the business side of things that sometimes occur.
Many healthcare practices and organizations have been slow to adjust to this growing trend. In a recent study, 86% of healthcare leaders feel that physicians are not equipped with the training they need to talk about the cost of healthcare services. Understandably so, as a sizeable knowledge gap remains between providers and their patients, between the recommended treatment plans and the uncertain cost of healthcare services owing to insurance coverage. That gap isn’t likely to close anytime soon, as nearly half of all Americans have high-deductible health plans (HDHPs) and, as you know, insurance coverage can vary depending on the provider.
The unfortunate reality: no easy solution will give you a clear pricing schema for every possible variation of insurance coverage, while accounting for every one of your patients in an easily accessible way, when cost comes up in the exam room. And since you are now considered to be part of a business, not knowing the exact cost of your services is a problem.
With these trends in mind, how do you keep with the times and treat your office like a business when it’s so difficult to give accurate prices? Moreover, given the rise of HDHPs, the increase in patient responsibility, and the added pressure on patients to pay more for their healthcare, the likelihood of past-due accounts receivable is escalating.
A recent survey suggests that nearly half of all working Americans could not pay a $1,000 medical bill in 30 days if needed. When patients have to resort to a crowdfunding site like GoFundMe to pay their medical bills, you know there are some larger issues at play.
Rather than engaging in a futile fight with these developments in patient consumerism in the healthcare industry, your best course of action is to face facts, adjust to the times, live in the now. You cannot possibly give accurate pricing all of the time, nor can you rely on the patient’s ability to pay all of the time. But you can encourage an intelligent billing process to minimize the quantity of dollars lost in the revenue cycle.
Collection agencies have become increasingly important for healthcare providers in recent years, and many offer services that will increase your cash flow or have tools that the average healthcare facility may not. However, the effectiveness of a collection partner depends, in part, on your office.
For instance, sending accounts to a collection agency after 120 days of delinquency may not be the best strategy; usually, you want to submit an account under the 90-day mark for the best results. When an account reaches 90 days past due, the account is worth 87 percent of its value; when it reaches 120 days, it is worth only 33 percent of its value. The potential for financial losses in the span of 30 days is staggering.
Many debt collection companies will offer pre-collect letter services in addition to their usual campaign of calls and letters. But those calls and letters are important too, as a good collection partner will have representatives who know how to balance a positive patient experience with effective negotiation skills. Additionally, a collection partner should have data scrubbing tools and analytical modeling tactics to ensure they maximize their efforts on your behalf. Other services like credit reporting, credit monitoring, and skip tracing will also give your collection process a marked advantage.
Perhaps the most important aspect of a good collection partner is that they can work with you to optimize your revenue cycle. A cooperative partner does more than just collect on the accounts that you send them; they will make recommendations, note areas where you could tighten up your revenue cycle, and work collaboratively to make it an effective partnership. The state of the healthcare industry today and its move toward patient consumerism makes that partnership an increasing necessity for everyone from an independent practice to a large hospital system.
About the Author: Brian Eggert
Brian Eggert is a business development specialist and writer for IC System, one of the largest receivables management companies in the United States. With 18 years in the collection industry, Brian's experience includes operations, client service, proposal writing, blogging, content creation, and web development.