4 Ways Your Practice Can Use Tech to Help with Patient Collection Communications

As shown in a 2019 survey of 1,036 adults and 317 U.S. healthcare providers, most of the providers interviewed (96%) believe it is important to give their patients an easy way to understand and pay for medical bills. Yet, when they interviewed the adults – less than half (45%) said that providers either do not help them to understand what they owe out of pocket and what is covered by insurance, or they do not do an adequate job of communicating this information.

The disconnect is not a new problem in the healthcare industry but a further exasperated one since COVID-19 fully came into the American conscious in March 2020. The pandemic resulted in many Americans losing their jobs and health insurance, which only added to the problem of patients being able to pay their healthcare bills.

As a provider, it is important now more than ever to help your patients better understand their healthcare bills and how to pay them and one way to do so is utilizing technology. Through technology advancements, easy-to-understand patient statements, and a compassionate approach, the situation has opened the door to communications that improve collections while giving patients more options for paying their bills. Here are four ways technology can help:

1. Appointment reminders.

For providers that have a quality EHR with an appointment reminder function, utilize the communication opportunity to inform patients ahead of time their payment responsibility. Studies show that this gesture will help increase the likelihood of getting paid at the time of the service. Once you confirm patient eligibility, calculate the potential patient responsibility for the visit and have your staff include it in their appointment reminder text message and/or phone call.

2. Text Messaging.

Having a text messaging function within your EHR can also be used to communicate to patients regarding their healthcare costs. To assist with this process, staff members need to be educated about your billing practices and procedures. It helps to provide scripts and train clinical staff on how to discuss billing with patients in an effective and proactive way.

For example, staff would need to know the best way to mention that exams or labs that may not be covered and would be an out-of-pocket cost for a patient. It is interesting to note that according to a Healthcare IT News survey, only 10% of patients said that they prefer to receive physician communications through patient portals, but almost twice as many (19.6%) said that they prefer getting information through secure text messages if in-person visits or phone calls are not possible.

These days, fewer patients answer phone calls from unfamiliar numbers, 30% of voicemails go unheard for at least three days and 20% of Americans never check their voicemail. On the other hand, 95% of text messages are read within 3 minutes, 98% of text messages are read overall, and 90 seconds is the average response time to a text message.

3. Multiple Pay Options.

It’s critical that practices communicate with their patients the many ways they can make a payment. Publicize these options during every touchpoint with the patient—on the patient portal, displayed sign at the front desk, newsletter, text messages, or even on their statements. Consider giving patients the option to pay via Apple Pay or Venmo using their smartphone. You can also send a text or email message that allows patients to decide whether to pay on the spot or enroll in an approved payment plan.

4. Upgraded Patient Statements.

Patients need to know how much a medical service is really going to cost after the insurance pays its part and when the payment is due. Clear statements, supported by payment estimation software, are the first steps in transparent communications. To be effective and increase willingness to pay, statements should: a. Be easy to read with an explanation of bill at-a-glance b. Clearly show amount owed and where the insurance has, or has not, paid c. Offer the patient multiple payment pathways such as paying online, payment plans and using a credit card on file d. Provide the practice’s contact information—including phone and patient portal

For more help with improving your patient collections strategy to bring more revenue into your practice during these uncertain times, visit us at Kareo.com/patient-collections.

About the Author

Cher Knebel is a Sr. Content Marketing Manager at Kareo and joined the company in 2019. She has been a content creator for more than two decades, specifically working...

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