Educating patients about their payment options can improve your medical practice revenue.
Imagine for a moment that you are planning to buy a car. Before you even enter a car lot, you do some research on the type of car you need, the features you are looking for, and how much you are able to spend. You might even get an opinion from a friend or check out reviews online.
After you have gathered all the information you need, you feel you are ready to start shopping—and confident that you might even get some new keys by the end of the day.
This is very similar to how most business transactions work: They have a need, they research the best ways to meet their need, and they make a purchase.
However, the healthcare industry doesn’t follow this formula. Your medical practice is a business just like any other, but your customers—aka, patients—often seek out your services not knowing exactly what they will be “buying” from you, nor how much they will be paying. Add in health insurance and surprise bills and you have a confusing hodgepodge of information that calculates the patient’s final bill, which they likely will not see for several weeks.
The current system is inefficient, and it is part of the reason that up to 30% of patient bills go unpaid every year.
Changing the Patient’s Financial Experience Many practices have improved their revenue flow by simply treating their patients more like customers. In other words, they educate them on the financial side of things, as well as how to manage their health.
In a recent NexTrust webinar, three-quarters of poll respondents (doctors and practice managers) said that they speak to patients about their payment options. Thirty-one percent said that they currently use electronic communications, and only 8% use printed materials (flyers, signs, etc.).
While speaking to patients is a good start, getting payment information in writing is crucial to driving this information home. Patients already have a lot to remember regarding their care. A simple handout on how and when to make their payments can make it much easier for patients to manage their payment responsibility.
Most providers—over 90%—educate patients about how to pay on their statements. It certainly doesn’t hurt to communicate this information this way, but don’t rely on it exclusively. Most people skim the statement to see how much they owe and most miss important instructions.
So, as you educate patients on their payment options, keep these four key areas in mind to improve your medical practice revenue:
1) Set Clear Expectations about Payments
The first step in financially engaging your patients is to remind them you are a business, and that you require regular, on-time payments to keep your doors open. Patients often don’t see their doctors as business owners. A simple statement upfront about your payment expectations encourages patients to be more proactive about paying their bills on time.
2) Educate Patients about Your Payments Process
When patients understand your payments process, they are empowered to be more proactive in participating in it. You know where billing and payments fit into your practice workflow, so make sure patients understand that, too. If you require copays to be paid before a visit, communicate that beforehand so they can be prepared. In addition to that, also communicate clearly about when any remaining balances are due.
3) Push Your Online Payment Options
The best thing you can do to increase payments is to educate patients about their online payment options. Don’t just say “We accept payments online” and leave it at that. Show them where to go to complete payments. Also tell them about the variety of payment options available to them.
For example, EZClaim customers have several online payment options:
• Guest Pay: Patients can quickly pay their balance without having to set up an account
• MyProviderLink.com: If the patient wants access to more features (such as the ability to check their balance without having to call the office or to set up automatic payments), they can register for an account through BillFlash’s payment portal
• LinkPay: The practice sends a payment link to the patient before their visit, so they can pay what they owe before the visit starts
• PlanPay: Split up larger bills into smaller monthly payments
Online payments are the future of healthcare. So, make sure your online payment options are front and center whenever you bill patients. This could include a note in their statement directing them to pay online, handing out instruction cards on how to pay online, and posting signs throughout your office directing patients to your payment portal.
4) Reach Out to Patients You Haven’t Seen Lately
Forty percent of patients defer or skip care because they don’t think they can afford it. Make sure you get the word out to your entire patient base that you can accommodate any patient’s financial circumstances, whether that means setting up a payment plan or delaying payment for a few months. If patients know they have affordable payment options, they will be more likely to seek you out when they need help, rather than going somewhere else or deferring care entirely.
Empowering Patients to Take Ownership Over Their Healthcare Bills Most patients want to pay their medical bills promptly and in full, but being in the dark about what they are being charged for and what their payment options are makes that difficult. The patient financial experience matters, and when you educate your patients on their online payment options and are transparent about costs, they usually respond positively, and you will improve your medical practice revenue.
The SIX KEYS to sustaining your practice through the COVID-19 pandemic are online payments, Telehealth, automation tools, cyber protection, financial aid, and a good patient experience.
When Coronavirus first started to impact medical practices across the country, providers quickly put temporary solutions in place to ensure they were still able to see patients safely. As the pandemic endured, some of these “temporary” solutions became a “normal” part of doing business. While we can’t predict exactly how COVID-19 will affect us in the future, one thing is becoming clearer every day: Some of the changes that have been made in the past few months will shape how healthcare is managed after the global health crisis is over.
So, it’s time to start thinking long-term with your COVID-19 strategy. Here are six ‘keys’ for sustaining your practice right now that will continue to be important after the pandemic is over.
1. ONLINE PAYMENTS
Most businesses already process a good amount of their payments online (including EZClaim), but healthcare has been slow to adapt in this area. Practices no longer have the luxury of taking their time adopting digital payment options. It’s time to give patients what they’ve been wanting for years: the ability to pay their bills online.
Because the pandemic is still with us, contactless payments have surged. No-touch payments are an easy way to reduce the spread of germs, and most people already have the tools they need to complete these types of payments: phones, computers, and credit cards.
Online payments are encouraged even when you’re meeting patients in the office. EZClaim customers can easily facilitate this with LinkPay. The process is easy and can be done once an appointment is made.
Here’s LinkPay in three simple steps:
1) Create a customized payment link with the required amount
2) Email or text the link to the patient before their visit
3) Patient pays the required amount, which is immediately confirmed and processed
COVID-19 demanded contactless payments for safety, but now patients now expect them for convenience. Medical practices will need online payments if they are to stay relevant in the future.
Telehealth threw providers a lifeline when patients stopped coming into the office. The government acted quickly to relax Telehealth reimbursement policies so providers would be paid just as much for a Telehealth visit as they would for an in-office visit.
Congress is hoping to make these changes permanent. Whether they succeed or not, plan on keeping Telehealth as an option for your patients. Because Telehealth is not just useful during a pandemic, it’s great during normal life, too. Not all visits require an in-person encounter, and patients of all ages can benefit from the convenience of not having to physically leave their homes to get the medical care they need.
Patients have become used to having Telehealth as an option. Keeping it as an option going forward will set you apart from other practices.
3. AUTOMATION TOOLS
Chances are you are working with fewer people than normal. So, with fewer people to handle your billing and payments, your best option is to automate whatever you can.
This could mean setting up AutoPay for patients you see regularly, so they don’t have to manually pay their bill every time. It could also mean setting up a payment plan, in which a fixed amount will be paid automatically every month until the balance is paid off. It could also mean outsourcing your collections.
Automation doesn’t mean you lose control. Rather, it gives your staff more time to manage other essential operations. EZClaim customers have all of these automation options available to them through BillFlash.
4. CYBER PROTECTION
With digital tools becoming more prevalent, it is more important than ever to make sure your systems are protected. Hackers are out in full force right now, so it is imperative that you have proper malware and anti-virus software in place to protect your practice, your patients, and your employees. Do your homework on the tech companies you work with, too. Protecting your practice and your patients should be a top priority!
Of course, your staff will need to be up-to-date on HIPAA protocols, as well. Make sure you are doing everything you need to protect patient privacy online as well as offline.
5. FINANCIAL AID
Some practices are struggling financially and may need government aid to get them through the current crisis. Keep an eye on government funds that are available and stay informed on their different requirements.
If you haven’t already, consider applying for a line of credit. This is a standard operating procedure—even during normal times—and can help protect you from further financial disruptions in the future. No one knows how long this pandemic will last, so having a line of credit to fall back on during the coming months and years could be a game-changer for your practice.
6. A GOOD PATIENT EXPERIENCE
Above all, you need happy patients. That is true whether we are in a recession or not. Happy patients are more likely to pay their bills, more likely to return for future care, and more likely to recommend you to family and friends.
So, as you make some of the changes you made during the pandemic permanent, make sure you are still doing the little things to ensure a positive patient experience. These include:
• Keep wait times short
• Maintain eye contact during visits to assure patients that you care
• Be transparent about payment expectations and insurance, as well as what you’re doing to keep patients and staff safe
• Allow patients to pay using their preferred payment method
• Offer payment plans in lieu of paying large bills in one lump sum
A positive patient experience will be key in bringing your patients back to the office as the global health crisis continues.
NexTrust from BillFlash offers a variety of innovative billing and payments solutions for EZClaim customers. Visit billflash.com or e-mail them at Sales@BillFlash.com to learn more about how you can get paid more, get paid faster, and ensure you have the online tools you need to thrive during the pandemic.
For details and features about EZClaim’s medical billing software, or the other partners they have integrated into their billing solution, visit their website.
[ Written by Kathy Scott, Marketing Manager at BillFlash and NexTrust, Inc. ]
There are five things to consider as you reopen your medical office: Reevaluate your budget; Get your staff’s buy-in; How to actively bring patients back into the office; Continuing to use Telemedicine and other online tools, and be flexible.
As the curve flattens and restrictions around the country loosen up, medical practices are slowly reopening their doors for non-essential services. But reopening doesn’t mean business will resume as usual. Every industry is making changes as we navigate a “new normal.”
Many of those changes center on social distancing guidelines, but there are other matters to consider as well. Here are some details about the strategies to keep in mind as you reopen.
Reevaluate Your Budget
Government restrictions may be lifting, but medical practices are not going to bounce back immediately. Any financial goals you had in place for 2020 likely won’t be met this year.
Some budgetary adjustments will be necessary. Here are just a few ideas:
Check in with vendors, landlords, and creditors to discuss any accommodations they may have for cash-flow disruptions
Consider delaying payment of bonuses and other discretionary payments
Seek aid from government economic relief packages and loans for small businesses and front-line workers. Stay informed on what your options are, as changes are ongoing.
This goes without saying, but make sure you’re up to date on patient billing and payments, too, including telemedicine visits. If you have patients who need extra time to pay their bills, EZClaim customers can set up a payment plan for them using BillFlash PlanPay.
Get Your Staff’s Buy-In
Before you start bringing patients back in, your entire medical staff needs to understand your new policies and be on board with enforcing them. They need to be reassured that their safety is a top priority, as well.
It’s been a difficult few months for front-line healthcare workers and will continue to be stressful in the months going forward. Do what you can to acknowledge their hard work and dedication.
Actively Bring Patients Back to the Office
Some people are eager to get out of their homes and into public spaces again, while others plan to shelter in place a while longer. Either way, your patients aren’t going to return in droves. Many are less comfortable going back to a doctor’s office, so be proactive about making your patients feel safe enough to return.
Americans have become experts on how viruses spread over the past few months, so anything you’re doing to clean and sanitize your office should be visible. Affixing physical distancing floor markers, procuring enough PPE for your staff, and installing hand sanitizer stations is a good start. Show your patients what you’re doing to protect them; simply telling them what you’re doing when they aren’t around won’t be enough.
As you communicate your new policies to patients, be aware that they may be feeling overwhelmed. Be transparent and connect with them on a personal level. Don’t be afraid to show your human side; otherwise, your office will be just another place with a long list of rules to follow.
Keep Using Telemedicine and Other Online Tools
The technology that got you through stay-at-home orders can continue to support you long term. Telehealth isn’t going away. Plus, patients will still want contactless payment options.
Evaluate what has worked over the last few months and incorporate them as part of your new normal.
For example, you may want to have a plan in place regarding which patients get priority with Telehealth. At-risk individuals will still need to stay home as much as possible, so make sure Telehealth will still be an option for them.
Another tool that has been valuable during the pandemic is contactless payments. COVID-19 has changed the way people are paying—for the good. They want the option to pay their bills online, or directly from their mobile devices. Some patients will even consider switching providers if another practice offers them online payment options their current provider doesn’t have.
Local outbreaks may still happen. Many households have lost income. Patients have different preferences and needs regarding where an encounter happens and how they pay.
Things are still changing by the week. As much as we all want a new, consistent normal, we need to be prepared to continue to make adjustments as needed. Ultimately, it is your patients and your practice’s financial health that will benefit from your ability to adjust to the times.
BillFlash, a fully integrated component and trusted partner of EZClaim, offers a variety of revenue cycle management services that have served EZClaim customers well for many years, as well as through the COVID-19 pandemic. For more information or to see a demo, contact BillFlash at 435-940-9123, email them at GetPaid@BillFlash.com, or visit their website at BillFlash.com.
Telemedicine was already growing in popularity prior to the onset of the Coronavirus pandemic. So, as the adoption rate increases, EZClaim clients may have questions about sending telemedicine charges and getting paid for Telehealth visits.
Telehealth challenges can range from issues with technology to getting paid. With Telehealth becoming the norm for many doctor-patient visits, it is important to have a thoughtful approach in place regarding collecting patient payments. To stay in business, you have to get paid for the work you are doing. So, establishing a process for Telehealth consultations is vital to your business, and it should be a top priority to build a successful program from beginning to end.
The answers to the following questions will help set the baseline for how to collect patient payments for
What is my process for charging for copays?
How and when do I collect outstanding balances?
For example, if you collect payment before an in-person visit, you should collect payment before a Telehealth visit, too. There is no need to re-create your process completely. Just change what is needed to match your current in-office routine.
Sending Charges Before a Telehealth Visit
A simple way to send pre-visit charges to patients is to provide them with a link that takes them directly to the payment site. EZClaim’s medical billing solution is integrated with BillFlash LinkPay, which enables customers to provide payment for the upcoming visit. So, before the Telehealth session begins, the practice simply sends a link to their patient via an e-mail or text, making the appointment confirmation and the payment processing part of the check-in process. After the payment transaction is complete, it will immediately show up on the practice’s BillFlash report. LinkPay is designed to be easy to use and doesn’t require patients to remember a login or a chart number.
Here’s how EZClaim enables the process through BillFlash:
Prior to Telehealth visit, the patient is sent a link to pay through LinkPay, and another link to join the Telehealth call
The patient pays the required amount through LinkPay, which is immediately confirmed and processed
The patient joins the Telehealth session
Results and follow-up are completed electronically
Insurance billing is completed
The patient receives a paper statement or eBill notification for any remaining balance
The patient is directed to pay the remaining balance online at MyProviderLink.com
Automate What Can Be Automated
With so many changes taking place in healthcare, a great way to help protect the financial stability of your practice is to automate what can be automated. This saves your staff time and decreases your cost of doing business.
One way to do this is to set up automatic payment plans for patients, particularly for those who have been hit hard by the economic impact of COVID-19. A payment plan is a good way of keeping the revenue flowing in, and it shows your patients that you are compassionate and willing to help them through these unprecedented times.
BillFlash also securely stores payment information, so patients will not need to re-enter their information every time they pay a new bill.
As you continue to adjust to Telehealth going forward, BillFlash can simplify patient billing and payments significantly and help getting paid for Telehealth visits.
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